The Bengals defensive line did a solid job in 2015 in large part because they didn't just have great starters, but also some quality backups.
Among those was defensive tackle Pat Sims, who signed with the team this offseason after a two-year stint with the Oakland Raiders. Cincinnati originally drafted Sims in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft out of Auburn and he played five seasons for the Bengals while being part of a valuable defensive line rotation.
Sims' specialty was how his 6-2, 340-pound frame added bulk and push to the middle of a defensive line that has lacked it when Sims was either out or not playing for the Bengals. Sims left in 2013 to pursue more playing time and money with the Raiders, where he racked up 54 total tackles and two sacks while becoming a force along their line.
His production dropped a bit in more of a rotational role in 2014 and the Raiders opted to not re-sign him, leading to him taking a one-year, $870,000 deal with Cincinnati that didn't even ensure he'd make the final 53-man roster. Despite a strong push from younger guys like DeShawn Williams, Sims made it through final cuts and went on to battle Brandon Thompson for backup tackle snaps.
Sims ended up not playing much this past season, appearing in just eight games while making 16 tackles. When he did play, Sims made his presence felt as he was a nice situational run-stuffer. He also helped contribute to a Bengals defense that finished seventh vs the run in 2015 after finishing 20th in 2014.
His best game came in Week 10 against the Houston Texans. Though he played just 20 snaps, Sims racked up a season-high six tackles and was instrumental in holding Houston to a mere 82 yards on 25 carries (3.3 ypc) in a 10-6 loss where the offense did practically nothing and left the defense on the field all night. Sims also registered a +2.2 Pro Football Focus grade, the third-highest mark any Bengal earned in that game.
Here was one of his tackles that resulted in a minimal gain:
Then came the Wild Card game vs Pittsburgh, where Sims would play significant snaps as Brandon Thompson was out due to a torn ACL while Domata Peko also missed a stretch of game time due to an ankle injury. Sims would respond by helping make a big pass deflection and sack in the fourth quarter to help keep the Bengals going:
But did Sims do enough that the Bengals will make an effort to re-sign him this offseason?
His 69.4 PFF grade was just decimal points shy of their 'starter' tier of players, meaning he was essentially a quality backup who probably would have been a serviceable starter if needed. As long as Peko and Geno Atkins are in Cincinnati, the Bengals would only need him to keep being a solid backup who may need to start if either of those two miss time. Though Sims played primarily in Peko's spot closer to the center, he also played Geno Atkins' three-technique spot and did well there, too.
The Bengals should absolutely make an effort to re-sign him as key as he's been to the defensive line rotation. He'll probably test the market and see what other teams will offer him as a 30-year-old (turning 31 in November), but I anticipate Cincinnati eventually making an effort to bring him back for at least another year.