Maualuga made 122 tackles last season, five behind team leader Vontaze Burfict, but at one point seemed likely to leave Cincinnati. Jones was a key part of the Bengals’ No. 9 pass defense and ranked seventh with an 11.6-yard average on punt returns.
Maualuga figures as an early favorite at SAM linebacker, replacing the departed Manny Lawson. Considering that Rey couldn’t find a market anywhere else, this isn’t a surprise. He visited the Arizona Cardinals and was even at one point rumored to be considered by the Baltimore Ravens. With no market for his services though, it makes sense for Maualuga to return for a minimal deal.
A second-round pick out of USC in 2009, Maualuga has increased his production each season, going from 63 tackles to 75 to 88 to 122. He’s missed only three games.
While fans have clamored all offseason to see Rey leave and never return to Cincinnati, this could ultimately be a good move for both sides, as Rey was a much better player on the outside than he was in the middle.