Originally written on WhoDeyFans  |  Last updated 11/18/14
This is the first in a series of articles looking through each of the position groups with an eye toward free agency. And why not begin with one of the lightning rods for this team? Rey Maualuga: unrestricted free agent Often a liability, he should not be the middle backer next year. But I say he will be a Bengal in 2013. [Collective groan.] Face it. Rey will draw zero interest, making him cheap to re-sign. And he has experience in Zimmer’s system. He is a reclamation project at this point. If Zim can tear him down and rebuild him again (by benching him and making him earn his way onto the field again), he just might find a serviceable player hiding in there somewhere once Rey stops trying to not lose his job. Vontaze Burfict: signed through 2014 The kid was simply brilliant. Moving him to the middle of the defense is inevitable. Marvin showed his GM skills by reaching out to a kid that everyone else had given up on and finding a real gem in the process. Manny Lawson: unrestricted free agent He had a decent if unspectacular season. Re-signing him wouldn’t be a bad move, but it feels like settling. How often did you hear his name? For similar money, I’d prefer Brandon Johnson. This position could be a prime target for a high draft pick. Thomas Howard: unrestricted free agent I’d like to see the Bengals give him another chance after missing most of last season. Howard and Burfict could be quite a tandem, the core of the best LB corps the team has had in a long time. (If Maualuga returns to the SAM spot, it has to be behind Howard. It could be very good for Rey.) Dan Skuta: unrestricted free agent Jack of all trades, master of none. One of those guys is good to have, but Lemur is just as good and cheaper. Vincent Rey: restricted free agent The kid has hung on longer than I ever thought he would. Good for him. I see another year on the fringes for him as the Bengals hang on to him for depth. Emmanuel Lemur: signed through 2014 With a season under his belt, I look for Lemur to take another step forward in 2013 as a primary backup player. He made he most of limited chances, and he deserves to be the pacesetter for the non-starters through the off-season. He has Marvin Lewis’ endorsement so far. I think he will live up to it. Dontay Moch: signed through 2014 After being sidelined for the past two years with physical issues, this is the last go around for Dontay if he can’t get and stay on the field. It would be a shame to see him end up in the over-stuffed “What Might Have Been” NFL drawer, but his time to avoid that fate is running short. Only three guys are signed past next month (and you could argue that Moch shouldn’t count since the team was trying to convert him to a defensive end) plus J.K. Schaffer on the practice squad. So some big-impact decisions must be made for this position group. Could this be a spot where the Bengals actually spend money to bring in a free agent? Free Agent Wish List I would love, love, love to see the Bengals pursue and sign Dannell Ellerbe. Could you imagine a mid-field of Ellerbe, Burfict and Howard? Sure, someone would have to move to WILL, but it sounds like an enforcer-minded unit that would pound opponents into submission. I love the way Ellerbe pursues the play and has a nose for the ball. With Flacco’s impending contract looking likely to squeeze out guys like Dannell, finding $3-4M/yr to put him is stripes would make a huge statement in my book. The cash-strapped Raiders are going to have a difficult time re-signing Philip Wheeler. So why not pillage that team a little further? The guy is a tackling machine, logging 78 tackles, 3 sacks and 6 passes defensed. And as an OLB, he should be an easier fit than Ellerbe. There might not be a lot of sizzle here, but Brandon Johnson was always a solid contributor when he was in Cincinnati. He wasn’t actually a starter in most of that time, but he played almost as much as one. Plus, any day the Bengals can add to their team by taking away from the Steelers, I call that a good day.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Michael Bennett compares Pete Carroll to Willy Wonka

Jim Kelly: There is no doubt Tom Brady cheated

Warriors hang on, edge Rockets in Game 2 thriller

Farrell 'not ruling anything out' as Red Sox's struggles persist

Gretzky: Connor McDavid could be the next Gretzky

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Bucs' Clint McDonald: Jameis Winston already leading team

Dana White: Rousey vs. Cyborg would break UFC PPV record

Report: Smith child abuse investigation 'sexual in nature'

DeGale: ‘At the end of the day I’m better’ than Dirrell

Belichick suspected Tom Brady wasn't being honest with him

Johnny Manziel to be a full participant in OTAs

Don't listen to Nick Saban, the bowl system is just fine

MLB scores partial victory in minor league wage lawsuits

Ranking the NBA Playoffs' most significant injuries

WATCH: Will Smith ejected for foreign substance on arm

Guy behind NFL's social media trolling of Pats is a Jets fan?

In defense of 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie

Madison Bumgarner homered off of Clayton Kershaw

Would both Towns, Okafor prefer not being the No. 1 pick?

Spoiler Alert Central: Pitfalls in online viewing of live sports

NYPD officer takes photo with 'Eli's brother' at Letterman

Post-combine NBA Draft big board: Top 30

NFL suspends Bills Marcell Dareus for violating substance abuse policy

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Jim Kelly: No doubt Tom Brady cheated

Post-combine NBA Draft big board: Top 30

Ex-players sue NFL for conspiring to push painkillers

Astros surprising, but can get better with Correa

Here come the Giants

Aaron Hernandez got new tattoo in prison

TUF weekly recap by NOS® Energy Drink

Ten players who could benefit due to PAT rule change

Five QBs set for breakout campaigns

Report: Lakers will pursue Thibodeau

MLS leaders struggling with attendance

LBS: I was a contestant on Sports Jeopardy!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.