With the departure of Emmanuel Lamur to the Minnesota Vikings, the Bengals are in need of a nickel linebacker to play opposite Vontaze Burfict.
According to Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson, Cincinnati could try and bring back one of its former players, safety-linebacker hybrid Taylor Mays.
Mays spent last season in Oakland, where he played in 14 games with the Raiders. He even made five starts opposite Charles Woodson at safety. Mays, a free agent, could've seen some interest on the open market, but a four-game suspension to start the 2016 season will likely push interested teams away. The suspension is for violating the NFL's policy on substances of abuse.
The Bengals have one of football's deepest rosters so they could afford to sign Mays in hopes he is able to step in as the team's nickel linebacker in Week 5 and beyond, teaming up with Vontaze Burfict.
In 2015, Mays was signed and cut by the Vikings, Lions and Raiders. The Raiders re-signed him though nine days after releasing him in the late summer, cut him again in October and then re-signed him again 10 days after that. For the Bengals to feel the need to bring back Mays is questionable, at best.
The Bengals just re-signed Vinny Rey to a three-year deal, but he'll be one of two nickel linebackers for the Bengals' first three weeks, during Vontaze Burfict's suspension. Rey Maualuga and A.J. Hawk are also on the roster, but neither player will likely see any time in nickel packages.
Even if the Bengals are able to bring Mays back to Cincinnati, the question of who the team will start opposite Rey in the nickel during the first three weeks of the season needs to be answered. The first few weeks of the season are likely the time the Bengals would need him most, and as of now, he won't even be able to play during that span.
The Bengals certainly hope P.J. Dawson can step in and make some plays, but he may not be ready for such a demanding role so soon. There's also a slim chance Shawn Williams could drop down to nickel backer and Derron Smith could join Iloka at safety. However, the team will likely aim for a linebacker at some point in the draft, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Many Bengals fans will likely lament about how Mays never turned into the player many hoped he would be, but it's important to note that Mays was actually a quality player during his stint in Cincinnati. He's versatile enough to play linebacker, safety or corner, and he's very familiar with Cincinnati's scheme. Mays is also a very good special teams player, which is icing on the cake.