With Vontaze Burfict suspended for the first three games of the 2017 season, Cincinnati may be searching for ways to fill the hole left in the defense during his absence. But, don’t expect to find much help among the list of linebackers cut loose by their teams on Saturday afternoon.
There are a couple of names on that list, however, who might give the Bengals pause. Most options are individuals who, at one point or another, provided tantalizing glimpses of what might be, but have not been able to translate that potential into production on-the-field.
The Bengals have Vincent Rey, Kevin Minter, Nick Vigil, Jordan Evans, Carl Lawson and Hardy Nickerson Jr. set to hold down the linebacker position during Burfict’s absence, but the team could swap out Nickerson for another player if they feel there’s a better option available. Here’s a look at some recently-cut linebackers the Bengals could consider.
1. Scooby Wright
Scooby Wright, a seventh-round selection of the Arizona Cardinals in the 2016 NFL Draft, was one of the top linebackers in the nation as a true sophomore at the University of Arizona in 2014. That year, he claimed the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Rotary Lombardi Award, the Jack Lambert Award and the Chuck Bednarik Award as the best collegiate linebacker in the nation. He was a finalist for the Walter Camp Award, given annually to the nation’s top football player, and was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, becoming the first sophomore to ever win the award. Wright finished ninth in balloting for the 2014 Heisman Trophy Award.
Wright suffered a meniscus tear during the season opener in 2015, and tried to come back just two weeks later. However, he was never the same player and has not been able to regain the form that once had him considered to a lock to be a first-round selection in the NFL Draft. He was only able to play in three games that year, finishing with two sacks and 23 tackles. He was cut by the Cardinals this weekend.
2. Ben Boulware
Another former standout college linebacker, Ben Boulware, was an undrafted free agent acquisition of the Carolina Panthers following the 2017 NFL Draft. As a senior at Clemson, Boulware finished with 116 tackles, including 11.5 for loss, and four sacks. Boulware was the Defensive MVP of the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship and earned the Jack Lambert Award as the nation’s best collegiate linebacker.
3. Dan Skuta
Also available is former Bengals linebacker Dan Skuta, who was signed by Cincinnati as an undrafted free agent following the 2009 NFL Draft and was a special teams stalwart before joining the 49ers after the 2012 season. Skuta had his best season while with the 49ers in 2014, when he started 10 of 14 games and finished with five sacks. He was cut by the Bears this weekend.
4. Sean Spence
Sean Spence was drafted by the Steelers in third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, but a serious knee injury derailed his first two seasons. Spence has never been able to fulfill the promise that he showed prior to that injury and was recently released by the Colts.
5. Zach Vigil
An interesting possibility might be Zach Vigil, the older brother of Bengals outside linebacker Nick Vigil. Zach was signed by Miami as an undrafted free agent after the 2015 NFL Draft and started two games for the Dolphins. He spent this offseason with the Redskins, who waived him this weekend.
6. Nate Gerry
Another possibility is Nate Gerry, a fifth-round selection of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2017 NFL Draft, Gerry hurt his hamstring during the third game of the preseason. He is 6’2”, 209 pounds and ran a 4.59 40 at the 2017 NFL Combine. He is a converted safety who had 13 interceptions while in college at Nebraska and might ably fill the role vacated when Emmanuel Lamur signed with Minnesota last year. If he’s healthy, he could be considered.
7. Don Cherry
Don Cherry signed with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent following the 2016 NFL Draft and spent the year on the practice squad. He showed some pretty nifty moves on this interception return against Miami in week three of the 2017 preseason. He’s expected to be a strong practice squad option for the Eagles if he’s not claimed off waivers.
Are there any linebackers you think the Bengals should consider during Burfict’s suspension?