Dec 14, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry (95) mocks Johnny Manziel following his first quarter sack at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
DL Wallace Gilberry
Like Peko, Wallace Gilberry could be a victim of the numbers game along the defensive line. Michael Johnson‘s return to the Bengals means Gilberry will return to a rotational role on the line. It’s a role that better suits him, which can be easily seen via his stats. Gilberry produced 14 sacks (48 tackles) between 2012-2013 while in his lone season as a starter (2014), he produced only 1.5 sacks, though he did match his tackle total from the previous two seasons. It is reasonable to expect Gilberry will return to his prior form as a rotational player with all this in mind.
Yet, what must also be taken into account is Marvin Lewis’ statement from earlier this offseason when he expressed wanting to see several younger defensive players on the field more in 2015; fellow defensive ends Margus Hunt and Will Clarke were included in this list.
As of now, the Bengals are carrying six defensive ends; Sam Montgomery being the sixth, who, at best, will end up on the practice squad. The Bengals have just enough room to carry the other five defensive ends they have. But, again with the draft coming, what if a defensive end talent too good to pass up presents itself, what then?
The Bengals could make Gilberry a permanent rotational fixture as a pass rushing interior lineman. They’ve often employed Gilberry in this role in the past, but this would mean moving on from another player such as Brandon Thompson who has shown promise. Would the Bengals really want to cash out on Thompson, who is much younger (25) and has a cheaper 2015 cap hit ($0.7953M) than Gilberry (30 and $2.05M)? And this option for Gilberry would only exist if the Bengals don’t also invest in another defensive tackle.
Although Gilberry’s retention only makes sense, as cutting him would be undeserved, will the Bengals avoid investing in a defensive end altogether in the upcoming draft? It could happen, but they won’t likely avoid investing in the defensive line as a whole when April 30th rolls around, which inevitably presents questions for both Gilberry and the aforementioned Domata Peko.
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