The Bengals’ decision to sign former Arizona Cardinals middle linebacker Kevin Minter was a bit of an unexpected move, as the Bengals typically do not pursue free agents who are just entering their prime. Typically, the Bengals prefer to pick up very young or veteran players who they can sign for small deals, preferring to find their top players in the draft. It is a move that should help the Bengals improve their depth at linebacker and is also a move that Minter thinks will be great for both sides.
“I think I’m a guy that can come in and play every down for them,” Minter told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “That defense doesn’t need much. I feel like you can plug me in and I can be another element.”
Being an every down player could be exactly what the Bengals are looking for with embattled starting middle linebacker Rey Maualuga entering the final year of his contract. If Minter can infiltrate the roster and prove himself more reliable than Maualuga, the Bengals may very well choose to extend Minter at the end of the season and allow Maualuga to walk. In fact, if Minter can prove his worth this offseason, Maualuga could become a roster cut before the season begins. Overall, it seems that, so far, Minter has already begun adjusting to his new team and new coaching staff, even if he grew up disliking Jim Haslett, his new linebacker coach.
“I remember him (Haslett) when he was (head coach) of the Saints. I hated him. I’m from Atlanta,” Minter said. “We hit it off great. I’m really looking forward to playing for him and taking this thing as far as we can.”
That’s how you know a working relationship is going to go well. Imagine growing up a Bengals fan then having the opportunity to work with someone like Bill Cowher or Mike Tomlin as an adult. Minter’s ability to remain professional and focused enough to impress the Bengals coaches is a testament to his commitment to football. In fact, Haslett sounded very impressed when he discussed his thoughts on the former Cardinal.
“He’s a very instinctive player with a great background,” Haslett said. “He’s a smart guy. Good guy. Good nose for the ball. He has three-down abilities and will help us in a lot of ways.”
In addition to being impressed by his childhood rival, part of what impressed him about the Bengals was his conversation with head coach Marvin Lewis.
“We talked a little ball, but he was trying to figure me out and I was trying to figure him out,” Minter said Saturday night. “It was a very down-to-earth conversation. It was cool to sit down with a guy who has been a head coach for so long and just have conversation like that. I understand why so many people have so many good things to say about Marvin Lewis. It gave me a better understanding why everyone loves that man.”
Overall, the Bengals felt like the perfect fit for Minter, who will also be reuniting with former friends and teammates. The Bengals lost two few former LSU Tigers this offseason (Andrew Whitworth and James Wright), but still had two on the roster (Jeremy Hill and Brandon LaFell), prior to Minter signing. Now, there are three and that made Minter feel just as welcome as anything.
“The way the organization embraced me on my visit, it just felt right,” Minter said. “I know Jeremy and Brandon LaFell from college. It’s going to be fun. Through my process Cincinnati was on the jump. I’m just glad they were able to pull the trigger and make a spot for me.”
It should be a relatively smooth transition from Arizona to Cincinnati, particularly given the talent he will have a chance to work with. The less smooth aspect is that Minter is switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense. But, he certainly did his homework on the Bengals before coming to town and deciding to sign in Cincinnati. Now, he feels he found a spot where he’s comfortable and and a place where he can try to make a name for himself in.
“It’s very stout. Geno Atkins up front. Vontaze. Pacman (Adam) Jones. I’m not looking to get in the way, either,” Minter said. “Great front four. Great in the back end. I just want to be a part of it.”