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Bengals should cut Rey Maualuga in offseason

It’s time to discuss Rey Maualuga’s future in Cincinnati.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It’s looking more and more like Rey Maualuga’s days in Cincinnati are numbered.

The starting linebacker has continued to watch his playing time drop throughout this season, which has been quite a fall for a guy who was playing in 60-70 percent of the defensive snaps throughout his career in Cincinnati.

Drafted by the Bengals in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft, Maualuga has been one the team’s starting linebackers for much of the past eight years, most of which being in the middle.

However, Maualuga has been getting around 20 snaps per game this year, including just eight in Week 1 and 20 snaps last week in Cleveland. For whatever reason, he’s getting playing time more in line with a backup than that of a starter, which wouldn’t be that big of a deal with most players.

However, it’s a big story with Maualuga based on the contract he has. The Bengals will have ended up paying him around $4 million this year to play in less than 40 percent of the defensive snaps, followed by a $3.7 million cap hit in 2017, the final year of his deal.

But that 2017 year has no dead cap, meaning the Bengals save all of that cap if Maualuga is cut this offseason. Even with the expanding cap, paying someone almost $4 million to play in less than half the snaps is bad business.

It doesn’t help that Maualuga, who turns 30 in January, reported to offseason workouts this year while being “grossly overweight”, which may have helped lead to a hamstring injury that caused him to miss most of training camp. Maualuga is also having a putrid season that has him graded as Pro Football Focus’ 85th-ranked linebacker out of 90 eligible players.

If that’s the kind of player the Bengals want leading their defense while being one of the highest-paid defensive players, maybe 5-7-1 is what they deserve. Let’s just hope they change that in 2017, especially with younger guys like Nick Vigil, P.J. Dawson, and Marquis Flowers waiting for their shot.

Sure, none of those guys may be as good as Maualuga today, but they can’t be much worse while being paid a fraction of what the embattled veteran makes. At this point, the Bengals are much better off giving more snaps to those guys to see what they’ve got opposed to letting Maualuga continue to play before he’s possibly cut this offseason.

At this point, it’s in the Bengals’ best interest for the Week 17 game against the Ravens to be Maualuga’s last in stripes. An upgrade can be found either in the offseason, or by utilizing somebody else who’s already on the roster.