Vincent Rey is back with the Bengals on a 3-year, $11.5 million deal.
Aside from Vontaze Burfict, Cincinnati's linebacking corps is quietly aging. Rey is 28, Rey Maualuga is 29 and A.J. Hawk is 32. Behind those four is complete uncertainty. P.J. Dawson has high expectations after being selected in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Marquis Flowers and Jayson Dimanche haven't been very impactful in limited playing time and behind those three are just camp bodies, until proven otherwise.
Letting Emmanuel Lamur walk indicated that the Bengals are feeling a little more confident about Dawson, Flowers or perhaps another linebacker, or maybe they're confident they can find a replacement in this year's draft. But to a degree, it also shows the team's confidence in Rey, who has quietly been one of the most reliable linebackers on the Bengals' roster.
Rey's contract introduces a big pay raise. From 2014-2015, Rey made $2.1 million per season--this coming after a breakout 2013 season in which the linebacker showed tons of promise. And in those two seasons, Rey certainly backed his contract up, notching 219 tackles, a sack and an interception.
"It does give me some validation, some tangible validation," Rey said during his press conference to announce the signing on Thursday, per the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Money is very important but even more than that is the fact I know I'm an important piece of this team. That means the world to me to know that I'm important here. That's the validation right there."
But the game-changing ability Rey displayed in 2013 never showed up in 2014 and 2015. In 2013 alone, the linebacker tallied four sacks, two interceptions and a touchdown. Whether the linebacker deserves a yearly pay raise of over $1.7 million (according to Spotrac, Rey is now making over $3.8 million per season) is a question that needs to be answered.
Vincent Rey's importance to team isn't in question. He's a great special teams player, has been a captain on the team, is a great presence in the locker room and can jump around to every linebacker position. But the drastic increase in pay, in an offseason which will see up to five starters walk, for a role-playing linebacker seems a bit irresponsible, especially with plenty of extensions to hand out in the future.
"I know I'm pretty important here and made plays in this league, but to know people are interested in having you and believe you are important piece," Rey said on Thursday. "For them to tell you that, and maybe I'm just a words of affirmation guy, but it built me up."