Head Coach Marvin Lewis has been playing the proverbial tiger-striped Cheshire cat thus far throughout free agency, sticking to a simple mantra – sign our own. For some, this has begun to rub the wrong way, smacking of Owner Mike Brown’s more notoriously parsimonious ways. While the truth of keeping cap room in place for rising stars like AJ Green, Andy Dalton and Geno Atkins is undeniable regardless of fervor for favorable free agents, most miss the minor maneuvering that was made prior to March.
Specifically with the linebackers. It’s no secret that Rey Maualuga’s play at MIKE down the stretch was an Achilles’ heel for Cincinnati, which led greater Bengaldom to cry out for an overhaul at the position. Common thought is this would be accomplished in the Draft with the likes a player like Alec Ogletree or Manti Te’o, both of whom come with visible ‘buyer beware’ tags. To most’s chagrin, the Bengals may be finishing all linebacker upgrades in the next week without tripping any League-wide alarms at all.
Historically, the Bengals keep six to seven linebackers on the final roster. The numbers usually break down as follows: three starters, a back-up MIKE, a coverage WILL, a pass-rushing SAM, and a developmental rookie with one of the later three being a special teams-oriented player. Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga can be safely counted two of as the starting three at this point. Emmanuel Lamur played very well done the stretch last season, and was excellent in coverage, making him a very special third-down rotational linebacker and back up WILL. Vincent Rey, third year linebacker out of Duke also signed his tender as a RFA this past February, and has seen a lot of time on special teams.