Back in the offseason leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals were interested in a number of players, including LSU linebacker Kevin Minter. The Bengals opted to draft running back Giovani Bernard and defensive end Margus Hunt with their two second round picks, but Minter stayed on their radar after getting selected by the Arizona Cardinals with the 45th overall pick in the draft.
A few days ago, the Bengals inked Minter to a one-year deal, which, for a 26-year-old linebacker, is a bit surprising. The veteran linebacker recently talked about joining the Bengals with SiriusXM NFL Radio, and discussed what his role with the Bengals will be in 2017 as well as his desire to stay with the club past this season.
One of the more interesting tidbits from the interview is his expectation of being the team’s starting middle linebacker. Before the team signed him, nine-year veteran Rey Maualuga had the inside track on the job. However, after a 2016 season where Maualuga was merely a one-down linebacker, and lost snaps to a variety of backups, there seems to be an interesting positional battle brewing.
“I’m gonna be the middle backer according to Marvin (Lewis) and Jim Haslett,” Minter said. “The “caller” like I was in Arizona.”
Many have predicted that Minter’s signing might signal Maualuga’s (and his $3.7 million cap hit’s) departure from Cincinnati. And, the Bengals head coach and linebackers coach supposedly confirming that Minter will take on the middle linebacker role makes that seem even more possible. The writing could be on the wall for No. 58, who has one year remaining on his contract.
Aside from being the type of thumper linebacker the Bengals covet in the middle of their defense, he was also initially pursued by the Arizona Cardinals prior to the start of free agency. Before the Bengals came looking for his services, Minter noted that he had some discussion with the Cardinals regarding re-signing in Arizona.
“At first, the Cardinals were knocking on the door, but that faded pretty quick. I had to get my mind right, knowing I’d be somewhere else,” Minter said. “The process was pretty nerve-racking, but I chose a great team, great organization. I could see myself being here for a while.”
Even though he’s on a prove-it one-year deal, the team has re-signed similar types of free agents in these situations before. It sounds like Minter hopes his long-term future is in Cincinnati, and, given his productivity, age and durability, it’s likely the Bengals hope to agree to that type of deal if Minter proves to bring the same traits in 2017. Minter has even said that the Bengals offered him a longer deal, but he turned it down in the hopes of proving himself in 2017.
“I’m absolutely okay with the one-year deal. It’s part of the game,” Minter said. “I’m going to grit my teeth and do what I gotta do”.
It appears as if the Bengals have made one of those rare (for Cincinnati), outside free agent moves that improves a starting position. After seeing Karlos Dansby bolt back to the Cardinals after a one-year stint, the Bengals are re-tooling the linebacker corps, which will likely include the addition of a linebacker in the draft, too.
Vontaze Burfict is set at the weakside spot, apparently Minter will be starting in the middle, and Nick Vigil is in the mix as a starter on the other side. It appears as if the group will have a different look this season, which shouldn’t be a bad thing.