Devon Still Re-Signs with Bengals; Can He Reclaim Promise?

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Oct 12, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still (75) runs onto the field prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals and the Panthers tie in overtime 37-37. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

According to his agent Drew Rosenhaus, Bengals defensive tackle has re-signed with the Bengals for 2015.  His retention comes on the heels of some incredibly promising news for Still and his family.  As has been widely reported, Leah Still might be over the cancer she was diagnosed with last year; we all continue to pray for her progress.  It’s been a long battle for their family.  At this moment, I can only imagine that a huge weight has been lifted from their family.

Because of all the deserving attention that has been given to Leah and her battle, it’s been some time now since we’ve discussed Devon Still‘s football career and its prospects going forward.  Although Leah’s battle isn’t quite over, with news that things seem to be heading in the right direction along with Still’s re-signing with the team, it may be an appropriate time to look at Devon Still’s professional future.

Still faced an incredibly difficult decision this offseason.  The 2014 season was highly difficult for him trying to both continue his career while being there for his daughter.  He made it clear that he was unable to focus entirely on football while making his family his first priority.  If his daughter’s battle were to continue going forward, would he really want to be away from her during this time?  More than that, as pointed out by Greg Noble of WCPO Cincinnati, Still also had to consider ensuring medical coverage for his daughter, which could’ve been done if he retired.  After presumably huge amounts of deliberation, Still has decided to continue his career.  It begs the question, can he recapture the promise he once offered upon being drafted by the Bengals in 2012?

It’s a difficult question to answer considering all that’s taken place across his three years.  When Devon Still entered the league in 2012, he was regarded as highly promising and was considered by NFL.com as one of the most NFL-ready prospects in the draft.  He was seen as a monstrous space eater, who’d help bolster the Bengals’ rush defense while forcing defenses to double team him, which would allow other linemen one-on-one matchups.

But, as we Bengals fans know, regardless of how much promise a prospect offers, and how highly drafted he is, the Bengals prefer to essentially “red shirt” their rookies perferring to play veterans.  During Still’s rookie season, Domata Peko was still an effective defensive tackle while Geno Atkins was a burgeoning star.  The Bengals also still employed Pat Sims who was highly effective against the run, and the team had drafted Brandon Thompson the round after Still.  Because of all this, it’s hard to judge Devon Still’s rookie season.  It can only be considered “typical.”

Still’s sophomore season started out as well as one could reasonably expect.  It was his first consistent experience in the NFL, and Still was performing in such a fashion.  Still’s season was derailed following Week Seven when he suffered a knee injury and then a herniated disc, which landed him on the I.R. list for the season’s final two games along with the playoff game.   At its conclusion, Still’s 2013 campaign can only be considered a disappointment due to both injuries and failing to produce based on his promise.

Then we come to Devon Still’s 2014 year.  It seems both unfair and inappropriate to judge Still based on this past season.  No one could be expected to perform well at his/her job having gone through what Still did.  With his daughter’s treatment demanding the entirety of his attention, football had to take a backseat.  Fans obviously understand this and are proud of the organization for doing right by Still and his family.  His third year, like his first, is largely impossible to judge.

Heading into the 2015 campaign, Devon Still has likely signed a one-year deal.  It means the team is taking his career with a year at a time approach, which is appropriate.  As Still is in his fourth year, he is now ineligible for the practice squad.  This means it’s the 53-man squad or bust.

After re-signing Still, the Bengals are presumably fully stocked at defensive tackle with he, Atkins, Peko, and Thompson under contract.  But this shouldn’t preclude the team from acquiring another young tackle in the upcoming draft.  Many fans believe the team should and will select a tackle, possibly in the first round.  If this happens, what should the Bengals do?  Will they really carry ten players along the line with five presumed roster locks at defensive end (Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Wallace Gilberry, Margus Hunt, and Will Clarke)?  Could the Bengals actually forego drafting a defensive tackle entirely?

2015 will likely prove to be the “make or break” year for Devon Still.  The promise he offered following his collegiate career was substantial.  2012 should be seen as a “wash” considering the Bengals’ penchant for keeping rookies on the bench more often than not.  2013 was the “sophomore slump” that saw Still suffer injuries that derailed his year.  And 2014 should be excused due to Still’s off-the-field issues.

If his daughter’s prognosis continues to be promising heading into 2015, could it offer Still a renewed focus on the game?  Will it offer him a new appreciation for his craft? Will he be more motivated than ever, along with accompanying thoughts of repaying a team that remained loyal to him through thick and thin?

Devon Still could have plenty of motivation heading into his fourth year in the NFL.  His prospect going forward is about as undetermined as it could be, but with another opportunity to fulfill the promise he once offered, watching Still’s 2015 offseason should be highly intriguing.

Next: How Devon Still's Retention Could Effect the Defensive Line

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