David Kohl-US PRESSWIRE
The Cincinnati Bengals admit they want Thomas Howard back, but how much is his knee (ACL tear last September) preventing interesting in the linebacker?
Those are the sounds when asking what's going on with Thomas Howard?
Signing a two-year deal following the NFL lockout in 2011 in late July, Howard started 15 games (played all 16) while posting a team-high 120 tackles, adding a quarterback sack, two forced fumbles and four passes defensed. He led the team in tackles during four of the final six games that year on a defense that ranked seventh in the NFL.
Unfortunately Howard's season was cut short the following year after opening the season in Baltimore. Heading into the second week against the Cleveland Browns, Howard appeared on Cincinnati's injury report as limited participation, suffering an ACL tear. He was placed on Injured Reserve the next day, with linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy re-joining the team to replace him.
Since then there hasn't been much noise.
While discovering the awesome AMC show Breaking Bad on Netflix, Howard completed a visit with the Miami Dolphins that ended without an agreement, leaving the WILL linebacker as an unrestricted free agent.
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis wants Howard back, but the knee is a concern. Meeting with the local beat writers Sunday night prior to league meetings that start on Monday in Arizona, Lewis said "we have to deal with the physical condition. Hopefully we have every opportunity to get Thomas signed."
Howard, who plans to enter his eighth season in the NFL, turns 30 this July.
If the Bengals sign Howard back, it's unknown how he'll be integrated. If you believe Marvin Lewis' comments during league meetings in March (and there's really no reason to unless you want to collapse into a world-is-ending tirade) that the recently re-signed Rey Maualuga stays in the middle with Burfict at WILL, there's no place for Howard -- save for depth on the roster and special teams contributions. On the other hand, if the team moves Maualuga to SAM, it opens the WILL position with Burfict's shift inside.
But the knee appears to be enough of a concern to drag the issue for some time.