Cincinnati Bengals Position Report: Linebackers

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 02: Thomas Howard #53 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates after the 23-20 victory against the Buffalo Bills at Paul Brown Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

We're taking a brief look at every position this weekend, breaking down the roster at this point in the offseason.

Position Report: Linebackers
Roster (9): Thomas Howard, Rey Maualuga, Manny Lawson, Keith Rivers, Roddrick Muckelroy, Dontay Moch, Vincent Rey, DeQuin Evans, Micah Johnson

Before suffering their respective injuries, Roddrick Muckelroy and Dontay Moch were expected to play key roles within Cincinnati's defense in 2011. Along with Keith Rivers missing the entire season, the Bengals were forced to sign Thomas Howard and Manny Lawson during last year's free agency (and re-signed Brandon Johnson) -- both of whom were free agent signings leading to tremendous production on the seventh-ranked defense in 2011.

Keith Rivers is a question mark due to the unknown nature of the wrist injury that held him out all of last season. When Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy wrote that it was degenerative, Rivers disputed that without an actual hint with what that injury could be.

Draft Projection: There are concerns however. Rey Maualuga could face a possible suspension, leaving a gap at middle linebacker. Muckelroy (or Dan Skuta if he returns) would likely fill that role, or a prospect that the Bengals find during the 2012 NFL Draft; not just as a temporary replacement, rather replacing Maualuga after the end of season when his contract expires.

There was a rumor floating around (and possible smoke screen) that head coach Marvin Lewis likes Alabama linebacker/defensive end hybrid Courtney Upshaw. Whether the Bengals would draft him as a linebacker or defensive end, is up for debate. Regardless it wouldn't be surprising if the Bengals addressed linebacker this year, getting their ducks in a row for an eventual exodus because everyone save Muckelroy and Moch will have expiring contracts at the end of this year. Keith Rivers is also signed into 2013, but we're not sure he'll last if they're worried about that wrist.

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