The Bengals love their redemption stories. This time around, the player they're targeting appears to be former Patriots first round pick defensive lineman Dominique Easley. Easley was drafted out of Florida in 2014 and spent the last two years trying to acclimate to the NFL in New England. He was released from the Patriots without much explanation earlier this offseason. Now, it appears he's working out for the Bengals in the hopes of Cincinnati signing him.
Former Patriots first-rounder Dominique Easley has had a couple workouts with teams, including one with the Bengals, per source.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) May 7, 2016
Coming out of college, Easley was expected to be drafted very early on in the first round, but a torn ACL caused him to fall all the way to the Patriots at pick No. 29. During his time in New England, he was plagued by injuries and forced to go through positional changes, ultimately leading to his value dropping off enough for the Patriots to release him last month. However, his sheer talent combined with the fact that he recorded 15 tackles, 3.0 sacks, an interception, and a pass defensed in only three NFL starts has been enough to get him tryouts with multiple teams, including the Bengals.
Signing Easley is a move that would make sense from the Bengals' perspective. Given the lack of progress so far with draft projects Margus Hunt and Will Clarke, as well as Wallace Gilberry's departure for the Detroit Lions this offseason, defensive end has become a position in which the Bengals could really use some depth and Easley has experience as both an end and tackle.
There's a good chance that Easley wouldn't even make the team even if the Bengals do sign him. Therefore, don't expect the Bengals to make much of an effort if Easley is looking for a lot of guaranteed money. They could use a versatile defensive lineman who can fill needs at both positions, but they also have young guys in Andrew Billings, DeShawn Williams and Marcus Hardison at defensive tackle. Easley would have to prove himself to be enough of a sure thing that the Bengals would drop an investment like Hunt or Clarke.
There's also the reasons that Easley was dropped by the Patriots in the first place to consider. Is there any guarantee that he can stay healthy given that his last season that didn't end in injury was as a Junior in college in 2012? If he stays healthy, will he actually be as productive as he was projected to be? There's a reason the Bengals passed on him in the 2014 draft, following the departure of Michael Johnson, so you'd think there might be plenty of reason for them to pass on him this offseason too.
Then again, if they can sign him to a fairly team-friendly contract, what would be the downside? Sure he's had surgery on both of his ACLs and his injury problems have continued into the NFL. Sure, he has issues with both size and focus. But, he's also an extremely talented individual with an incredible weight room work ethic and the relentlessness to bring down the ball carrier at every opportunity.
There's certainly all the chance in the world that he completely fizzles out for his next team in the NFL, but there's plenty of upside if it can be taken advantage of. As long as the Bengals don't invest too much into a trial with Easley, there's no reason that signing him would be a bad idea.