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Bengals Roundtable: Thoughts on Taylor Mays signing

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There are some divisive fan opinions on the Bengals bringing back Taylor Mays, and the folks at Cincy Jungle had a discussion about the move.

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The Cincinnati Bengals brought back a familiar face on Thursday in the athletic project player, Taylor Mays. Fans have been outspoken on the move for a variety of reasons, so the crew at Cincy Jungle, consisting of Anthony Cosenza, Rebecca Toback, Josh Kirkendall and Jason Marcum, decided to chat about the move.

AC: Alright. So do you like the re-signing of Mays?

JM: Meh. I'm not for or against it really.

RT: To me, it makes sense if its purely for offseason depth and competition. If they're really hoping that Mays is going to re-join the team and be someone who adds to the roster, that's questionable. They already let him walk in free agency once, and quickly after that he was signed and cut by three teams. If he wasn't good enough for non-contenders like the Lions, why should he be good enough now for the Bengals?

AC: Yeah. I'm there with you on that part. I just don't understand the timing of the deal. It isn't like teams are beating down the door of a second round bust who is facing a four-game suspension, though. Seems like a guy they could have inked way down the road if they wanted to. There are other pressing needs at the moment--I guess I wish they were focusing more on receiver and linebacker (a true one).

RT: Yeah, as you say all the time, Anthony, it's about what are you doing to get better. To me, Mays is not helping them get better.

AC: Exactly. I think that's why fans are up in arms, Rebecca. A totally uninspiring move after two productive, fan-favorite guys in Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu leave.

JM: I think the move is more insurance than anything. Because Mays is suspended, he won't count towards the final 53-man roster once it’s set. Then, once his suspension is up, you can bring him onto the roster if the Bengals feel they need more help at safety and even linebacker on obvious passing downs.Mays really played that role well in 2013 before his season-ending injury. After that, Emmanuel Lamur pretty much held that role from 2014-15 until he left to sign with Minnesota this offseason. And while guys like P.J. Dawson may be good enough to play there, Mays will probably be a better coverage linebacker than Dawson or any other Bengals linebacker for that matter.

But, if that's an area the Bengals feel good about without Mays, they can just cut him once his suspension is up. We saw a similar thing happen last year with Sean Porter. The Bengals placed him on PUP so he could remain property of the team through the first two months of the season, but once he was ready to come off of it, the Bengals loved what they had at linebacker and opted instead to waive him.That's what I ultimately think will happen with Mays unless a safety or linebacker gets hurt.

RT: Yeah, I think as fans, we speculate. Maybe some kind of roster manipulation is what they have in mind, but I just wonder why the Bengals think now that he's suddenly more worthwhile of being on the roster than he was 12 months ago when they let him walk in free agency.

JK: I see little value of the Mays signing overall; am I upset, no. Confused? Yes. He’s out for the first four games already, adds very little as a safety and linebacker--in truth, he’s a depreciation from what was on the roster last year. Would anyone make an argument to sign him before the signing? No. He’s training camp fodder so they have "scout team" players to use or 4th quarter guys during the preseason.

RT: Did his 5 starts with the Raiders change him?

AC: I agree, Josh. But, how much have we been actually able to see of Mays in the "hy-backer" role? He either landed on I.R. or Paul Guenther began to get obsessed with Emmanuel Lamur. I'm still eager to see if he can be a productive niche guy as kind of a "rover" player. Like you said though, there is likely very little risk, so they can cut bait whenever.

RT: When signing players for camp depth to me, it seems like an undrafted rookie would be more valuable than someone like Mays. Their upside is unknown while at this point, we've probably seen what Mays can do. And, in that regards, there's the same little risk situation.

JK: Maybe, but in virtually every case that he played linebacker, it was out of desperation because someone had an untimely injury, not because they think he improves the roster. He filled that need well, yes.

AC: Oh, totally. This coaching staff has shown they love the devil they know (veterans they trust), over the devil they don't (rookies/outside free agents), so them bringing him back is understandable. And, the athleticism is off the charts, as Mays is a physical freak. I'm sure it's easy for them to drool over the possibilities, even if they don't actually come to fruition.

JK: I hope his athleticism is great, especially with the performance enhancements he’s allegedly taking. If they place Mays in a pool of players, like undrafted free agents, and he comes out ahead, then I’m alright with that. Historically speaking though, they have always favored veterans they know, as opposed to taking a flier with someone that could present greater upside. Mays and Brandon Tate. Awesome.

RT: Is there an example you can think of where a guy did little to impress but was really physically gifted and that finally came through 6 years after entering the league?

JK: That’s not a quarterback?

AC: Not really. I mean, yeah, I could name some quarterbacks who have resurrected their careers.

RT: Yeah, that's why the "why now" concept just doesn't seem to make sense to me.

AC: That's my biggest problem with it, if I have one, and why I think fans are negative about it. They want to see the team be proactive in replacing some of the roster holes free agency has created. A project player facing a suspension, who hasn't worked out for four different teams, doesn't inspire confidence.

JK: Totes, A-to-the-C. Mays is a solid special teamer and backup player; again, my concern is Cincinnati’s affinity to favor someone like Mays, as opposed to a rookie or second-year player, missing an opportunity to develop/promote them.

AC: I know it's very early, but do you think he ends up making the team?

RT: It's kind of is like the Shiloh Keo situation from last year. A veteran guy who was eh and everyone thought theyd keep but they actually cut. But then he went and was kind of the MVP of the AFC Championship game for the Broncos, so there's that. But back to making the team... I think it depends on who they end up adding at linebacker and safety before the start of the season.

JK: If Cincinnati does nothing to build their roster via the draft and college free agency, it’s probable. It’s also depressing as hell.

AC: On one hand, I think he has a good shot at making it because of their penchant for keeping "their guys". On the other hand, I think he's going to have to show a lot, Dawson will have to regress/disappoint, and/or the team will need to forgo drafting a linebacker high in the draft for him to have a solid shot.

JK: If Mays earns a spot, I’m OK with that. If he’s in a position where he can earn a spot, that depresses me. That means they couldn’t find someone else.

RT: It definitely would be depressing.

AC: Yeah. One thing that gets forgotten about free agency though, is scheme/skill set fit. People get obsessed with the big names coming to a team, myself included at times, but forget that some of the lower-tier guys brought in might actually pay equal or higher dividends because they fit what the coaches are asking him to do.

JK: That reminds me, if I hear one more person give me the "he knows the system" argument, I’m going to throw up.

AC: He knows the system.

JK: You're dead to me.

AC: Aren't you the one always talking me off of the free agency ledge, when I get pissed about a Mays-like signing? I'm embracing rationality for once this year.

JM: I don't think it's 'he knows the system' as much as the Bengals know how to best use him.

AC: There you go. That is probably a better way to word it.

JK: No, no. I don’t care about big name signings. I care about these signings, where the team signs someone they’re familiar with that offer little, save for training camp fodder. It concerns me because then, they’re going to favor them over someone else that may have greater upside.

AC: Yeah, that's my worry, too.

JK: As for the "know the system", people use that as a primary argument to re-sign someone. How does Brandon Tate "knowing the system" give Cincinnati any advantage? You mean to tell me someone can’t adapt to the system by August? But I get it, depth, and all of that jazz.

RT: When I spoke to Iloka he said "knowing the system" factored into his decision to stay in Cincinnati, so that he didnt have to spend the offseason learning a new playbook.

JM: And if this is a multi-year deal, it gives the Bengals a little insurance next year if Shawn Williams leaves in free agency.  George Iloka and Derron Smith are the only safeties signed through 2017.

JK: Well, if they’re worried about insurance at safety, then re-sign Reggie Nelson.

JM: Maybe they don;t think he'll be able to be effective next year when he's 32 going on 33. But I'm with you big time on re-signing Nelson for now.

JK: It’s certainly possible, man. However, as a 32-year old, he lead the league in interception and ranked first or second in all but one season with the Bengals. If he depreciates, then that’s expected. However, my argument for Nelson, made last week, I believe, is that he showed no sign of slowing down. And I’d even overpay him just for games against the Steelers. I get that Taylor Mays and Reggie Nelson aren’t necessarily the same position, but they also are.

JM: Also, A.J. Hawk is a free agent next year and probably isn't back, so Mays could help take of his lost snaps as well if it's a multi-year deal.

RT: I don't understand the Reggie Nelson age situation at all. There are so many older safeties in the NFL and he proved to be among the best at 32 in 2015. Why cant he be among the best at 33?

JK: They reportedly offered him a two-year deal and he said no. Maybe they’re just playing off each other for now. It’s not like things have to happen immediately.Any bets that they re-sign Leon Hall as insurance at cornerback and safety too?

RT: I think it's interesting Hall has visited two teams and not signed with either yet. I think the Bengals could still bring him back if no one is interested and he starts realizing that's the case.

JK: If the Bengals are banking on Mays being a long-term solution to anything, I’ll throw up on Anthony.

JM: As loyal as the Bengals were to Hall, he owes it to the to come back on a minimal deal if they'll offer him that.

AC: I like the idea of signing these "Jack of All Trades" guys, but when are they going to start splashing for the "Master of One" types? Get guys who are great at their craft, not just capable at a couple of things. I mean, you always want flexibility, but they have a lot of these project guys that don't always pan out.

JM: Because the Bengals think they can build a team full of 'Jack of All Trades' guys and make it work, which they have to a degree, but once you get to the postseason, teams are game-planning more while finding and exposing those weaknesses more.

JK: I always thought Hall was a solid player and a master technician. That being said, I still think (and most people probably too) they should have prioritized Johnathan Joseph (with free gatorade). I’m OK with the "Jack of all Trades" approach, but it seems the examples where it benefits them is slim. It’s also worth noting that it’s March. Let’s revisit this discussion in mid-October when Mays accidentally spears and concusses Vontaze Burfict or Geno Atkins. Yea, I went there.

RT: I'll hold my heavy objections to Mays until September; hopefully, he gets cut then. Until then, I hope they sign someone better or draft someone better to make him leave with the rest of the under-performs in the preseason.

AC: I'm not rooting for him to be cut, per se; I mean, if he proves to be worthy of a spot over someone else, so be it. Like Jason said, he'll likely stick around until at least October because of his suspension. If there are injuries at that point, he may become useful. I just think they could have upgraded their roster a bit further by signing someone like Karlos Dansby, even though he's at the end of his career.

JK: My prediction: He’s cut before training camp starts.

AC: I think he sticks until October because of his lack of needing to be added to an official roster until that point in time.

RT: I guess it depends on his contract, too, if he's guaranteed more money if he makes it to a certain point.

JK: If there’s $1 guaranteed, they screwed the pooch. Is that the phrase? It doesn't seem like I used that right.

AC: No, that's right.

Share your thoughts on the signing below!

]They already let him walk in free agency once, and quickly after that he was signed and cut by three team