Now on to the theoretic. Remember that the Bengals craftily signed Aaron Maybin to their roster in late in January after he was released by the Jets in November. A bit of an X-factor, Maybin led New York in tackles, quarterback hits and forced fumbles in 2011, but for an undisclosed reason declined substantially in 2012 and was released in November of last season. Maybin has been told he’s going line up at SAM, and as he turns 25 next month, the Bengals may be getting a prime player at the position.
Also slinking into the roster picture is rookie-ish Brandon Joiner who was recently released early from a three-year jail sentence for robbery committed when he was 18 years old. The 2011 Sun-Belt Player of Year signed with the Bengals as an undrafted free agent following the 2012 NFL Draft and was retained despite his jail sentence. Like Maybin, there is no telling where Joiner will fit, but it would be foolish to think there is a ceiling with either one of these players.
Then there is Dontay Moch. The power-project drafted in 2011 has never materialized into anything due to injuries, headaches and drug violations. This pre-season is do or die for him has a Bengal. There remains a small demographic of Bengals fans who have been waiting for him to explode onto NFL scene. This could be his year, or it could be his last.
Burfict, Maualuga and Maybin could be the potential starters, and Moch, Lamur, Rey and Joiner could call be perfectly fine second fiddles. Undoubtably the Bengals coaching staff has a reasonable idea of where these players are in terms of ability, injuries and potential; and it would make no sense why they would show their hand on any of those facts until at after the Draft at the very least. However, a big indicator will be how the Bengals handle free agent Thomas Howard. Signing Howard would indicate their personnel are still being mulled over, but the current silence and lack of interest in the recovering linebacker points toward a more confident coaching staff. Certainly, the Bengals could be planning on using a high draft pick to bolster their corps, but with more certain talent and money available now, the Bengals may be approaching prospect linebackers and the Draft as a whole from a BPA perspective rather than positional enhancement rooted in crisis and need.