Vincent Rey next in line for Bengals to take care of

US PRESSWIRE

The Bengals need to bring back Vincent Rey to challenge Rey Maualuga for his starting spot.

Now that the Bengals know where Michael Johnson, Andrew Hawkins, Taylor Mays and Mike Pollak are going to play next year (and probably Anthony Collins), it's time to figure out what to do with restricted free agent Vincent Rey.

He's free to sign an offer sheet with another team as Hawkins did. Then it will be up to the Bengals to match that offer. For the majority of his career, Rey has primarily been used on special teams and in a reserve linebacker role.

Coming into 2013, he had started in just one game in his four years in the NFL, and that was at weakside linebacker. It looked as though he was destined to be a career backup. After Rey Maualuga was knocked out of action due to a sprained MCL, it was Vinny who was thrust into the starting lineup at middle linebacker.

The time to shine came for Vinny, and he made the most out of his opportunity.

According to Pro Football Focus, Vinny had a +6.3 grade for the year, which made him the 9th-best MLB in the league that played in at least 25 percent of his teams snaps.

In just his second start of the year in Week 11 vs. the Baltimore Ravens, Vinny led the team with 13 tackles, three sacks, three tackles for loss, three pass defenses and an interception. He would end up starting three games in 2013 with 32 tackles in those games.

It was a small sample of Vinny's ability to be a quality MLB, but it was clear he deserved to play significant snaps. Maualuga still ended up getting his starting spot back once he returned in Week 13, and Vinnie would average just 15.3 snaps per game over the final six games of the year.

Even worse was that Vinny played only five snaps in the Wild Card loss to the San Diego Chargers. That was when San Diego rushed for 196 yards, most of which were just runs right up the gut.

The Bengals cannot make the mistake of continuing to let Maualuga get the majority of MLB snaps on a defense that's arguably the best in the AFC. They finished with the No. 1 defense in the AFC last year, and are likely going to have 10 of their 11 starters return, so long as Leon Hall and Geno Atkins are able to recover from season-ending injuries last year.

But with a LB rotation of Vinny, Maualuga, Emmanuel Lamur, James Harrison, Sean Porter, Jayson DiManche and Vontaze Burfict, it may still be hard for Vinny to get a ton of snaps next year. If the Bengals do bring him back, at the very least, they must give him more than five snaps in a playoff game.

He's earned more than that, and hopefully the Bengals will give him more playing time before another team signs him and does so.

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