BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 20: Linebacker Manny Lawson #99 of the Cincinnati Bengals shows his frustration after the Baltimore Ravens score a touchdown in the third quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on November 20, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens won, 31-24. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
+ The Cincinnati Bengals enter free agency this year with choices that need to be made at linebacker. Along with a possibility that Rey Maualuga could serve a suspension due to his reported "indiscretion" last week, Cincinnati's starting strong-side linebacker Manny Lawson will enter free agency after completing a one-year deal that he signed days before training camp. Unless the team wants to explore their younger players in Roddrick Muckelroy or Dontay Moch in some capacity, the possibility exists that the team could re-sign Manny Lawson.
Pro Football Focus, grading every position in anticipation for free agency, released their top-five outside linebacker free agents. Ranked third is Cincinnati's Lawson, who generated a +10.2:
After having played outside in San Francisco’s 3-4, it was interesting watching Lawson adjust to playing in a four-man front. He surpassed almost all expectations and, if anything, looked more suited to the Bengals’ scheme. While Lawson may only be a two-down player (he graded negatively in coverage) he does have some versatility in that he can play with his hand on the ground if needed. He hasn’t quite had the success of Kamerion Wimbley in Oakland but he is a solid role player who should continue to improve.
The remaining top-five includes Minnesota's Eric Henderson (+21.7), Baltimore's Jarret Johnson (+18.3), Seattle's Leroy Hill (+5.7) and Indianapolis' Phillip Wheeler (+9.3). Johnson is the only player out of that group that's over 30 years old.
Here's the beauty.
With a reported $60 million under the cap, the Bengals will have options. Figure that roughly $10 million will go towards rookie contracts and another chunk going towards contract extensions, the team will still have plenty of room to play with their salary cap. But one of the first decisions they'll need to make is whether or not to bring Lawson back -- a move we'd be highly supportive of.