Let’s just be honest: Bengals fans don’t want to see linebacker Rey Maualuga re-signed after he graded out as the worst middle linebacker (-26.3) by Pro Football Focus. But if you listen to Bengals coaches, youd can tell they don’t share that same sentiment.
Head coach Marvin Lewis has stuck with his starting middle linebacker through thick and thin, and told the NFL Network’s Gregg Rosenthal Sunday that the team wants to re-sign Maualuga:
He’s one of the guys you got to get back in the fold.
This comes just a few days after defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer told Geoff Hobson that Rey is better than people give him credit for:
(Maualuga) is, as you will find out when this free-agency period starts, a lot better than what a lot of people give him credit for. I think that’s going to be what people are going to find out if he goes. If he’s not here, people are going to miss him and say we should have had him. That’s how it works, like Justin Smith.
This certainly sounds like a coaching staff that’s bracing fans for one of two scenarios:
1. Maualuga re-signs and is moved to either a backup role or to one of the outside LB spots
2. Maualuga leaves and is the next Ahmad Brooks or Justin Smith, players who struggled in Cincinnati but went on to thrive elsewhere.
Bengals fans would probably risk the latter.