One of many Cincinnati Bengals facing a do-or-die battle in 2017 is Marquis Flowers.
The veteran linebacker is facing an uphill climb toward making the final roster this year at one of the deepest positions on the roster. Where does he stand on the current depth chart, and what are his chances of cracking the 53-man roster?
Weight: 245 pounds
Hometown: Phoenix, AZ
Experience: Fourth-year player in 2017.
Flowers is on the final year of his rookie contract. He’s set to have a cap hit of $709,670 in 2017. If released, Flowers will have a dead cap hit of $19,670, according to Spotrac.
A fourth-year linebacker out of Arizona, Flowers is entering a contract year with the Bengals, but it’s no certainty he even makes the final roster in 2017. After being selected in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Flowers appeared in every game as a rookie, including one start in an upset win over the Denver Broncos.
But in 2015, Flowers injured his shoulder during the Bengals' preseason finale, which led to him being on Injured/Reserve for all of 2015. He fully recovered and earned a spot on the 53-man roster in 2016, though he rarely saw game action and was mostly relegated to special teams. He appeared in all 16 games and made seven tackles while recording no other defensive statistic.
Flowers went to Arizona intending to be a defensive back. He ended up playing exclusively at safety as a backup in 2011 and then was moved to linebacker full-time in 2012. From there, he slowly developed into a star for the Wildcats' defense.
In 2012, Flowers racked up 100 stops and 13 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and intercepted three passes (returning one for a TD). In 2013, he registered 94 tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss to go with one sack, a pair of fumble recoveries and an interception returned for a touchdown.
Flowers hits like a backer and runs like a safety, having run the 40-yard dash in the 4.4 at his Pro Day. He was even described as a "Kam Chancellor-type linebacker turned safety" entering the NFL.
It was thought that Flowers could be the kind of hybrid linebacker/defensive back we saw Taylor Mays become. We only saw glimpses of that when he was a rookie before he missed all of his second year and rarely saw the field in 2016. He could be in for a big breakout year of sorts in 2017, though, his position group is now quite crowded and he’s not nearing the top of the depth chart.
Flowers is by no means a lock to make the final roster, but he's in good position to do so as long as he has a good showing in training camp and the preseason. He should be ahead of P.J. Dawson and Jordan Evans on the depth chart for those final linebacker spots. Though, as a 2017 draft pick, Evans is unlikely to get cut and is more likely to land on the final roster. There's also Bryson Albright, Hardy Nickerson and Brandon Bell on the roster, fighting for a spot at linebacker.
Additionally, those guys (other than Albright) have more years remaining on their current contracts, whereas Flowers is a free agent next year. Flowers will have to outperform young players with high potential by a nice margin to earn a roster spot over them.
This group is already stacked with Nick Vigil, Kevin Minter, Vincent Rey, Vontaze Burfict and Carl Lawson assured of roster spots. Assuming the Bengals keep six or seven linebackers, there are about six guys fighting for one or two spots. Flowers has the talent and ability to accomplish this, but, it will be a tough fight.
Odds: 40 percent