The Bengals are a loyal franchise. The organization is not only faithful to its coaches, but also to to its players. Often, guys are employed in Cincinnati for far longer than makes sense due to their production — or lack thereof. Such is currently the case for head coach Marvin Lewis who has the longest streak without a playoff win among all NFL head coaches. He’s also the league’s second longest tenured head coach. There are quite a few players who this concept applies to as well. Rey Maualuga is one of the best examples of a player who has been getting paid too much, for too long, based on his lacking production.
Per Over The Cap, Maualuga had a $4,084,375 cap hit in 2016 and will have a $3,668,750 cap hit in 2017. Those numbers are far too high given his current level of play. In 2016, Maualuga totaled 27 tackles, 2 passes defended and 1 interception in 14 games played (6 starts). His tackles were a career low and his passes defended matched a career low. Maualuga only played 326 snaps this season, as the coaching staff seemed to rely on him less and less as the season progressed. Comparatively speaking, Nick Vigil played 110 snaps and Vincent Rey played 591. Also comparatively, Rey had a $4.5 million cap hit in 2016 and Vigil had a $623,000 cap hit. It’s pretty easy to see that Maualuga’s output didn’t match his compensation in 2016. Because of that, and because he can be cut at no cost to the Bengals, he’s a potential player to look out for to be a cap casualty this offseason. But, when you consider the Bengals’ loyalty shown to veteran players, it could be hard to imagine the team actually cutting their 2009 second round draft pick.
Still, if the team decides to value production over loyalty this offseason and if the Bengals really want to improve, cutting Maualuga makes a lot of sense.
Over the Cap's Jason Fitzgerald recently went through each position in the NFL to document the most likely players who could be cut across the league this offseason. The list is actually quite interesting as the Bengals tend to sign free agents who are cut by other teams during the offseason, as opposed to unrestricted free agents whose contracts expire (and count against potential compensatory picks the Bengals could be rewarded).
Maualuga was one of two Bengals players who made Fitzgerald’s list. Here’s what he had to say about Maualuga:
10. Rey Maualuga, Bengals
Cap Saved: $3.7 million/Cash Saved: $3.7 million
The Bengals dependency on homegrown players has led to Maualuga probably have a longer and more lucrative run than he would have had if he began his career with any other team in the NFL. With the Bengals finally looking much older on the field this past season players like Maualuga should probably be cut. He’ll be 30 next year and finished the season with just 17 tackles in 14 games.
The Bengals’ age on defense (and thus, need to get younger) is one of many reasons to part ways with the linebacker. Vigil, the team’s third round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, seems poised for a bigger role with the Bengals and it seems quite likely the team drafts another linebacker this year. For those reasons, plus the money the team would save by cutting him, it makes a lot of sense for the Bengals to part ways with Maualuga this offseason.
The aging Bengals’ defense also gave Fitzgerald the idea that Pat Sims could be cut this offseason, too. Sims doesn’t have a big cap hit in 2017 (just $1.1 million), but he’s getting older and is replaceable by either an incoming rookie or current players on the Bengals’ roster who were injured during the 2016 season. Marcus Hardison has missed his first two seasons due to injury and Andrew Billings missed his rookie year, too. Those two defensive tackles are expected back in 2017, and though there are many questions surrounding their potential and ability, the hope is that they jump ahead of Sims on the depth chart. If the Bengals’ coaching staff believes the potential of that duo is high, Sims could be shown the door. It’s even more likely Sims is cut if the Bengals opt to re-sign Domata Peko (something I don’t believe the team should do). Two tackles on the wrong side of 30 is not something this Bengals team needs in 2017.
5. Pat Sims, Bengals
Cap Saved: $1.1 million/Cash Saved: $1.1 million
If there is a team that needs to get younger in 2017 it’s the Bengals whose roster has gotten older and older and the results were not there this season. While Sims does not make much it probably makes more sense to get younger if possible.
What do you think? Will the Bengals cut Maualuga and Sims this offseason?