The Bengals linebacking corps has undergone a magnificent turnover in the last few seasons. Gone are Dhani Jones, Keith Rivers, and Brandon Johnson. But, will Rey Maualuga and Manny Lawson join them next? Both enter free agency this offseason, and the Bengals may have found their new young nucleus with Vontaze Burfict and Emmanuel Lamur. Then, there's the veteran Thomas Howard, who seems likely to be re-signed by the team, if successfully rehabbed from an ACL tear in a September practice.
With so much unknown, the Bengals have a lot of flexibility in deciding how to re-build the linebacker position. They could re-sign Rey Maualga as the SAM linebacker, which has been talked a lot about on this site recently. Or, they could draft a young strongside or weakside linebacker early in this year's draft. At least, that's what CBS Sports.com's Rob Rang had to say in his latest mock draft:
Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU With incumbent starting middle linebacker Rey Maualuga expected to be allowed to test free agency, the Bengals could be looking at improving at that position on draft day. Their replacement may already be on the roster in Vontaze Burfict, who emerged as the Bengals' most consistent linebacker after a spectacular rookie campaign. Mingo played defensive end while at LSU but the 6-4, 241-pounder projects best as an outside linebacker in the NFL. His flexibility and straight-line speed will make him effective in coverage and a terror off the edge.
Mingo is one of those freak athletes who projects both to defensive end and linebacker in the NFL. That's pretty great for the Bengals, because the Bengals have significant holes at both positions currently.