Linebacker Trade Options for the Bengals


Oct 19, 2014; Landover, MD, USA; Tennessee Titans inside linebacker Zaviar Gooden (50) walks out of the locker room prior to the Titans

It’s no secret that the Bengals could use some help within their linebacking room.  The team possesses several young players, so there still exists the possibility that time and development will help, i.e. Emmanuel Lamur, Marquis Flowers, and Jayson DiManche.  Nonetheless, with injury striking defensive leader Vontaze Burfict and both Rey Maualuga and Vincent Rey seemingly having hit their developmental peaks, additions to the group will be necessary.

Most likely, the Bengals will find the necessary additions via the draft.  There are several players who could help the Bengals throughout the draft.  Yet with so much off-season to work with prior to April’s draft, the Bengals may seek some additions to the group prior to this time.

With nine selections in this year’s draft (seven rounds plus two compensatory picks that have yet to be determined), the Bengals have the commodities to potentially trade for intriguing players.  It’s a concept the team is well acquainted with as they’ve acquired quality players in the past using low-round selections; Reggie Nelson required only David Jones and a conditional selection while Taylor Mays required just a seventh round pick.  This year, the Bengals could implement this plan and find themselves a couple of intriguing linebackers that shouldn’t cost much more than what they’ve traded in the past.

Zaviar Gooden

A third-round compensatory selection by Tennessee in 2013, Zaviar Gooden hasn’t quite worked out the way the Titans likely hoped upon drafting him.

Gooden was a combine standout during the 2013 draft process.  He led his positional group in seven of eight exercises, which displayed his ultra-athleticism.  Despite his promise as an athlete, Gooden was an incredibly raw prospect that offered initially little more than dreams of what he could become as a linebacker.

Since his selection, the Titans have clearly struggled to develop Gooden.  He’s only managed to see the field on about 10% of the team’s defensive snaps over his first two years.  But the most significant indictment against Gooden’s development happen this year after starting linebacker Zach Brown‘s season was ended after just four plays.

Gooden was given the chance to start following Brown’s injury, but lasted only about three additional games in the role.  He was supplanted by rookie Avery Williamson by about Week Five and saw little action after that; based on snap counts, Gooden saw the sixth most action amongst linebackers even with a starter out for the season.  His struggles may also have to do with the defensive alignment changing this year, as indicated by his Titans biography, which has forced Gooden into a position that may not come natural to him.

To his credit, Zaviar Gooden has contributed towards special teams playing on nearly 60% of the unit’s snaps this past season, but this is a relatively low bar to reach for a former third round selection.  So how would Gooden fit with Cincinnati?

The Bengals have displayed a strong ability to develop linebackers.  Defensive coordinator, and former linebackers coach, Paul Guenther has done so successfully with Vontaze Burfict and has loaded the group with youth that he is currently working on. With the Bengals, Gooden would also have an opportunity to return to a more natural position, the WILL position most likely, rather than be forced into the middle of a 3-4 defense.

Also worth noting, Gooden would come to the Bengals with experience on special teams.  The Bengals currently boast one of the league’s best units, so it isn’t exactly a position of need.  Nonetheless, it’s hard to imagine that coach Darrin Simmons would have a hard time finding a place for an experience athlete such as Zaviar Gooden.

f the Bengals were able to acquire Gooden with a low-round selection, could Guenther turn his uber-athletic ability into functional linebacking production?  Could the special teams find a place for such an athlete?  Both seem entirely possible.

Arthur Brown

The rare disastrous pick for the Ravens, Arthur Brown‘s story simply has fallen apart since joining the Bengals’ divisional rival in 2013.  As a former second round selection, Arthur Brown was expected to help bolster the middle of the Ravens’ defense.  This simply hasn’t happened and hope for Brown in Baltimore has been increasing dissipating since his arrival.  After being drafted, the Ravens signed veteran linebacker Daryl Smith to a one-year deal.  The Ravens teamed Smith with a few other linebackers who played alongside of him in the middle of the defense; Arthur Brown wasn’t one of these players.

Heading into his second season, many thought the Ravens would use Brown one way or another in the middle as Smith’s contract was up and they lacked other options, but the Ravens had other plans.  All signs point to the team having lost faith in the young linebacker.  The Ravens signed Smith, who had a phenomenal 2013 season, to a four-year deal.  To make matters worse, when analyzing his deal, the Ravens didn’t structure it in such a way that would allow them to move on from him anytime soon; there isn’t a year before 2017 where the Ravens could cut Smith without accumulating much dead money.

Further muddying Arthur Brown’s prospects, the Ravens then drafted C.J. Mosley with their first round selection in 2014.  He and Smith formed a spectacular duo at middle linebacker in 2014, so an opening at the position anytime soon seems impossible barring an injury.

And to really finish things off, Arthur Brown’s 2014 campaign saw him only suit up for only four games; otherwise, he was a healthy scratch.  In lieu of Brown, the Ravens dressed Zach Orr, a rookie undrafted free agent out of North Texas.  This meant that Brown barely saw the field in 2014.

The reason for Brown’s downfall in Baltimore still seems to be unknown.  Some draftniks expressed concern over his maturity during the draft process.  Could this be the reason?  So, after such a disastrous start to a career, why would the Bengals want Brown?

Some of the reasons emulate that of Zaviar Gooden.  The largest being the Bengals have had success helping struggling players find their groove.  More specifically concerning Arthur Brown, the Bengals could especially use a middle linebacker, and once upon a time, Brown offered great promise; any comparison to NaVorro Bowman is impressive (see’s draft profile).

It also seems Brown could use a change of scenery.  Maybe being traded away by the team that drafted him would be a motivating factor for the young linebacker regardless of whether his issue is with performance or attitude.  The level of interest Baltimore would show in trading a player to a divisional would be presumably pretty low, but who knows?  Maybe recouping some of the value they have seemingly lost would be appealing.

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