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Rashad Jeanty to start at strong-side linebacker; five players that should have become UFA will be restricted

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Some have wondered why isn't Brandon Johnson starting in place of the injured Rey Maualuga against the New York Jets. Johnson, a weak-side linebacker, is primarily a backup linebacker for Keith Rivers as well as one of two linebackers in nickel formations. His stronger attributes tend to be in the passing game and during pass rushing situations.

Rashad Jeanty on the other hand, is stronger against the run and a natural strong-side linebacker. Furthermore, Jeanty was the projected starting strong-side linebacker during training camp until Maualuga won the job late in camp. How did Jeanty take it when Maualuga won the job?

 “At first it was kind of tough mentally because you’re used to starting and going out first but I have special teams duties and the team is counting on me,” Jeanty said. “The thing now is I’m prepared and I’m glad I was prepared all year.”

Jeanty is one of five players, which includes Brandon Johnson, that could have become unrestricted free agents this year. However, CBA changes during the uncapped year will make him, and the other four, restricted free agents again next season, allowing the Bengals to keep their linebacker group very deep. The full list of players that could have been unrestricted free agents, but are restricted free agents instead thanks to the uncapped year, are:
  • Brandon Johnson
  • Rashad Jeanty
  • Frostee Rucker
  • Evan Mathis
  • Abdul Hodge

While not starters if the guys ahead of them are healthy, this crop is an important bunch for the team's depth. Furthermore, I believe that Cincinnati should sign Brandon Johnson, who plays plenty of nickel packages and starts weak-side when starter Keith Rivers falls to injury, to a long-term deal. Mathis, apart of the revamped offensive line that's vastly improved, has actually started seven games at left guard and Frostee Rucker has played in 11 of 15 games this season with a sack and interception to his credit. Rashad Jeanty is a good strong-side linebacker and, like Hodge, contributes greatly to special teams. I would have no problem bringing any of the five back to Cincinnati next season.