The Cincinnati Bengals are one of the most complex teams in all of the NFL, as they have enough talent to make a run in the playoffs, but have been derailed in the first round of the postseason in each of the last two seasons.
Now the Bengals face a bigger challenge as they have just one linebacker currently under contract. After having a sixth ranked defense in 2012 they can’t afford to let too many players from this defense walk.
Free agency is less than a month away and it appears the club may let both Rey Maualuga and Thomas Howard go. At 29-years-old don’t be surprised if the team lets Howard walk as he did suffer a season-ending knee injury after week one in 2012. Howard is just one season removed from a 70 tackle season with two forced fumbles.
Maualuga will likely be released, as his performance at middle linebacker left much to be desired and Vontaze Burfict will likely be moved from outside linebacker back to his natural position in the middle.
Manny Lawson is another free-agent linebacker, however Lawson started in just 10 games last year and underachieved with a career low 29 tackles. In addition, Dan Skuta is also on the market and he has made little to no impact with 15 tackles in four seasons with the club.
The Bengals may completely blow up this linebacking core and rely on Burfict to man the sixth ranked defense in 2012. Look for the Bengals to make a splash in free agency and possibly bring in veteran Shaun Phillips who has poured in some great seasons with the San Diego Chargers.
With the 21st pick this April the Bengals will more than likely go linebacker to make up for these familiar faces leaving town.