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Bengals sign Paul Dawson to rookie contract

Paul Dawson will be expected to compete for playing time and possibly a starting role as a rookie.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

With the 99th-overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals grabbed TCU All-American linebacker Paul Dawson.

Now, the team has announced they've signed Dawson to his rookie contract. It will be a four-year contract worth just under $3 million dollars. The pick was the final selection of the third round. It was also the pick the Bengals got as a result of Michael Johnson leaving to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year.

Going into the draft, Dawson was rated as the top 4-3 linebacker prospect by some, and most expected he'd be off the board by the end of the second round. He was a force at TCU in 2014, leading the team with 136 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and four interceptions on his way to being named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

Dawson will likely become an instant starter at WLB while Vontaze Burfict recovers from microfracture surgery this offseason. At worst, Dawson will split playing time with Vinny Rey at WLB while also getting some runs at MLB when Rey Maualuga needs a break.

Though best he's best suited at WILL, Dawson can play all three backer spots because of his coverage skills, tackling ability and pass-rushing prowess. It's possible he's already among the most complete linebackers the Bengals have before he plays a down of football.