Okay, everyone is frothing at the mouth because Rey got re-signed. Has anyone stopped to consider why? I had plenty of time last night to ponder it, and came to an interesting conclusion.
That conclusion is: Groundwork is being laid for the next few years, not just this season.
Sure, when you're coaching during the season you don't look past the next game you're playing. But when making personnel decisions, you absolutely look several seasons ahead. I've turned it over several times in my head, and I think we're seeing the public part of Marvin Lewis being crafty. Why do I say that?
Well, look at the linebackers currently on our roster. We have: Maualuga, Burfict, Moch, Joiner, Lamur, Maybin, Shaffer. That's just the guys currently signed. Howard is up in the air still. If Howard signs with another team, suddenly Rey becomes the only linebacker on our roster that has more than 1 season of practical NFL experience and is familiar with the system. Maybin has the same number of years under his belt, but this is his first year in our defense. Re-signing Rey is insurance in case Howard signs somewhere else, because otherwise you have Maybin as the most experienced linebacker on the roster, and he's never played in Zimmer's system. I'm not sure how comfortable I'd be with that idea if I were a Bengals coach.
I also recall Burfict mentioning that he learned quite a bit from Rey during training camp and practices. I have to consider the possibility that Rey is one of those players who is better at teaching others how to play a position than he is at actually playing the position himself. How many NFL coaches were superstar players in their playing days? Not too many that I can think of. Most of the time, players that go on to coach were nothing special at the position they played, but had a knack for teaching that position to others. If Burfict was being honest about how much he learned from Rey, it is possible that Rey has a future as a coach at some level after his playing days are over.
This is a bit of a shot in the dark, but I'm starting to think that the Bengals are seriously looking at linebackers in the draft, and want to keep Rey around for a couple years to mentor them if they don't get a guy that can start right away. Ogletree would probably start right away, and maybe a couple other guys, but it's also a strong possibility that they will be gone before our first pick. If Rey does indeed have a knack for teaching the linebacker position better than he plays it himself, it just makes sense to keep him around to mentor the 4th or 5th guy on the list who isn't ready to start quite yet.
If they want to rebuild their linebacker corps through the draft, it's going to take about 2 years for any draft picks they make to become experienced players in their own right. Perhaps it's not a coincidence that Rey was only signed to a 2 year contract, instead of a longer one that a player of his age would justify if they were a long term plan. 2 years from now, he will have served his purpose as a mentor and Burfict will have 3 seasons under his belt and can mentor any rookies from there. If that was the plan, would YOU make it public knowledge that you're just using the guy until you don't need him anymore? Given Rey's tendency to get depressed about his perceived value, that would be a bad move.
It's also possible that they wanted to talk to Ellerbe, but Miami jumped on him before they had a chance to. I'm quite sure that the public doesn't hear about every single player a team is interested in talking to, just the ones who say something about the team or who are linked to it somehow. If they were interested in Ellerbe in the front office and never got a chance at him, we wouldn't necessarily hear about that. If that's the case and Rey really IS the 3rd best linebacker available in free agency, they may have felt that re-signing him was the best option because there was no one available who was significantly better.
Also, if they don't manage to re-sign Andre Smith, suddenly they need a right Tackle too. Keeping Rey means they don't have to spend their first pick on a good linebacker who can start right away, they can look for one later in the draft who needs some development.
Marvin Lewis strikes me as the kind of guy who pathologically hates being stuck in a bad position because he failed to plan for the possibility that it could happen. If you look at all the different reasons to re-sign Rey Maualuga that have little or nothing to do with his on-field ability, it looks more and more like Marvin Lewis is simply trying to avoid ending up with a shortage of linebackers who have experience and know the defense because he didn't plan for that situation to happen.
Or he could just be an overly sentimental idiot. But, given some of the personnel decisions he's made the last couple seasons, I don't see that as being the more likely of the two possibilities.