Bengals Need A Linebacker: How About Denzel Perryman?


Oct 4, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Miami Hurricanes linebacker Denzel Perryman (52) in action against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the first quarter at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Senior linebacker Denzel Perryman is a hard-nosed linebacker who enjoys playing downhill and getting into blockers and ball carriers.  He has an aggressive demeanor that instills fear in ball carriers and receivers crossing the middle of the field.  It’s this attitude and willingness to play downhill which should intrigue the Bengals.

For all to long, the Bengals’ defense has been missing attitude, leadership, and a great tackler in the middle of the field.  The Bengals seem to have found this in linebacker Vontaze Burfict.  But Burfict’s absence impacted the defense in a big way.  Far to many times this year the defense looked ill-prepared and out of sorts.  They were missing a presence in the middle of the field and were often chewed up in the running game.  Burfict’s return will undeniably help this defense, but a return to his form pre-microfracture surgery is far from a certainty.

Denzel Perryman could help the Bengals in this way.  As a Butkus Award finalist this past season, it’s clear that Perryman has all the necessary talent and ability to become a highly productive linebacker in the NFL.  His penchant for heat-seeking running backs would be an excellent weapon to have in the AFC North, as each of the division’s teams now possesses a solid, if not spectacular running game.  And this is where Perryman would come up big for the Bengals.

Denzel Perryman wouldn’t simply be insurance for Vontaze Burfict.  Currently, the Bengals most often employ the nickel set on defense.  This defense only requires two linebackers.  Presumably one of those linebackers will always be Vontaze Burfict.  Depending on the play, the other could be a run-stopper or pass coverage guy.  Perryman would be great as the guy against the run.

More than that, with the division emphasizing the run game more and more each year, the Bengals may be forced to start employing their base 4-3 set more often than in the past.  Denzel Perryman would be an excellent middle linebacker, something the Bengals have been missing for several years.  They have used Rey Maualuga and Vincent Rey in the role the past few years, but both players leave something to be desired.  Perryman’s ability against the run would allow Burfict to roam more often and finish plays while Perryman fires into the backfield or oncoming blockers.

Rey Maualuga will be a free agent once again this year.  Admittedly, he was a much more effective player this past year.  The Bengals had him focus on defending the run as he provides little against the pass.  Maualuga only played on 39.5% of the Bengals snaps this year; some of this had to do with injury, but Maualuga also picked up some extra snaps with Burfict out for much of the season.  For his services, Maualuga commanded a of cap number of over $3.8 million.  This is simply too much money for a 28-year-old player who plays only a fraction of the snaps and offers little upside at this point in his career.

When juxtaposed against Maualuga, Perryman’s skill-set looks awfully similar.  He’s that downhill player who is most effective against the run.  Yet, Perryman is a much more natural inside linebacker who’d often much more upside at this point in his career.  He would need to be coached up as he isn’t the most capable coverage defender and can be slow to identify and react to plays, but these are coachable deficiencies.

An added benefit would be that Perryman would come at a fraction of the cost.  As of today, CBS’ draftniks have Denzel Perryman going between the second and third round.  This means his contract would likely fall in the range of Bengals’ 2014 second round selection Jeremy Hill if in fact the Bengals selected Perryman in the second round.

After missing this past week’s Senior Bowl game with an abdominal injury and due to illness, Perryman’s draft stock could take a hit.  It’s unlikely that he would drop into the deep part of the third round, but a lot can change between now and April, so it’s anyone’s guess how things will play out with so much time to go.  The point here is that, unless Maualuga chooses to sign a very cheap deal, Perryman will offer much more upside at a position he is much more of a natural fit for, and at a fraction of the cost.

Denzel Perryman is an intriguing prospect and could fill a hole in the Bengals’ defense that has been there for several years.  He’d bring a presence to the defense that is much needed and would compliment Vontaze Burfict, the centerpiece of the defense, well.  The Bengals would do well to consider Perryman with one of their earlier selections in this year’s draft.

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