The Cincinnati Bengals have a deep group of linebackers, which could be even better if Nick Vigil can improve upon his promising rookie season.
Where does Vigil stand on the current depth chart, and is his roster spot locked up heading into training camp?
College: Utah State
Hometown: Plain City, UT
Experience: Second-year player
Draft status: Third round pick in 2016
Vigil is entering the second year of his four-year rookie contract. He will have a cap hit of $738,907 in 2017. If waived, Vigil will have a dead cap hit of $521,722, according to Spotrac.
The Bengals didn't get much out of their 2016 draft in the group’s rookie year, but Nick Vigil was one of the few picks who played throughout the season. Vigil, a former All-Mountain West star for Utah State, was selected with the 87th pick of the 2016 NFL Draft. As senior in 2015, Vigil recorded 144 tackles (sixth-best in the FBS), 13.5 of which were for loss to go with three sacks.
Vigil really jumped onto NFL radars with a great performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, where his 40-yard (4.72), 3-cone (6.73), and 20-yard shuttle (4.0) times were among the best at his position. Despite a big senior season and great combine showing, the selection of Vigil in Round 3 came as a big surprise at the time since few experts had projected him as anything higher than a Round 4-5 prospect. There were, however, rumors that the Green Bay Packers were considering Vigil in Round 3, so perhaps he was much higher on NFL teams’ big boards than that of the media.
Regardless, the Bengals liked what they saw in the versatile backer and thought he could come in and be one of the team’s more complete backers, even going as far as to liken him to Carolina Panthers All-Pro Luke Kuechly. We saw flashes of that in the preseason in 2016, but once the regular season began, Vigil found it tough to see much of the field on defense.
With Vincent Rey, Vontaze Burfict, Karlos Dansby and Rey Maualuga getting most of the snaps, there simply wasn't enough playing time to go around for Vigil to see the field, especially with nearly every game being close. Vigil spent most of his time getting backup snaps on the strongside, though he did get brief snaps in the middle and weakside.
Vigil also made it onto the field for all 16 games, though it was mostly on special teams. His defensive snaps increased during the final three games due to injuries, as well as the Bengals giving Vigil some of Maualuga’s snaps. Vigil would finish his rookie season with 21 tackles, 11 of which came in the final three games.
Vigil looks primed for a major workload in 2017 after Maualuga became a cap casualty, and Karlos Dansby wasn’t re-signed. The Bengals did sign a quality free agent linebacker in Kevin Minter, who figures to get a heavy workload in 2017, too. But Vigil will still be fighting with Vinny Rey for a Dansby’s playing time and early expectations are the job is Vigil’s to lose. It’s possible he opens the season as the starting strongside linebacker, which hasn’t traditionally been used as much in Cincinnati’s nickel-heavy defense, but it’s certainly a start for Vigil.
Rey may still see more playing time than Vigil, but one injury could make Vigil into one of the team’s more important players. Either way, Vigil is all but locked into a spot on the final roster next season. He’s shown too much promise to be on the bubble, not to mention he’s a third-round pick, and he adds depth to all three backer spots.
Odds: 90 percent.