The Cincinnati Bengals are signing free agent linebacker Kevin Minter to a one-year deal, according to ESPN’s Josina Anderson.
I'm told the #Bengals are signing FA LB Kevin Minter, per source.— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) March 18, 2017
Minter, who will be a fifth-year NFL player in 2017, has spent his entire NFL career with the Cardinals. He’s been a full-time inside linebacker in each of the past two seasons, racking up 175 total tackles, four sacks and four pass deflections in the process.
The 6’0”, 246-pound Miner finished 2016 as Pro Football Focus’ 25th-best linebacker. He’s easily one of the best defenders left on the market, and it’s becoming clear the Bengals want to upgrade their linebacking corps.
This is a great move by the Bengals that bolsters their linebacker depth. This is also a bit of a trade off as Minter leaves the Arizona Cardinals, who signed Karlos Dansby away from Cincinnati this offseason.
Minter has spent his career at inside linebacker in Arizona’s 3-4 defense, so he’ll probably play that spot in Cincinnati’s 4-3 defense. It’s possible he plays the strongside linebacker spot that Dansby manned last season, though he played both on the outside and the middle.
This could also be bad news for embattled middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, who’s been a full-time starter in the middle since 2011, but has been a liability more often than not. His role also decreased significantly last year as Dansby took a lot of his snaps in the middle. Even rookie Nick Vigil was taking Maualuga’s snaps away during the final month of the 2016 season, so seeing the Bengals sign Minter could be the final dagger in Maualuga’s career in stripes.
There’s also the possibility the Bengals spend the No. 9 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft on Alabama’s Reuben Foster, who is regarded as the best linebacker in this draft, not to mention he may very well be the best player available at that spot.
And with Minter’s deal reportedly being for just one year, drafting Foster there could still be in play, though that position won’t be nearly as big of a need now.