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Bengals LB Malik Jefferson signs rookie contract

Jefferson has a world of potential the Bengals will look to harness.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals-Minicamp Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals are close to having their entire 2018 NFL Draft class under contract now that Malik Jefferson has signed his rookie deal, according to his agent:

Entering the draft, Jefferson was a highly regarded linebacker, especially after he had a very productive Scouting Combine. He finished near the top of the linebackers in the 40-yard dash, broad jump, and he put up 27 reps during the bench press.

That freakish athleticism was on full display throughout his collegiate career. Jefferson finished his Texas Longhorns career with 231 tackles (26 for a loss), 13 sacks, two forced fumbles and five passes defended. His stats really took a jump in his senior year when Texas changed to more of an attacking man-to-man defense and finished with 110 total tackles.

While Jefferson has the ideal build for an NFL linebacker at 6’3” and 235 pounds, he lacks the instincts that would have gotten him drafted higher. He struggles to diagnose plays and reach, but when he does correctly, his straight-line burst is as good as any linebacker in this draft class.

If Jefferson can begin harnessing his talents and learn how to read offenses better, he can become a force in the Bengals’ defense.

The good thing is Jefferson won’t be forced into action right away as long as Preston Brown, Nick Vigil, Vincent Rey and Jordan Evans are healthy, not to mention Vontaze Burfict will be back in Week 5 after serving his four-game suspension.

Of the Bengals’ 11 draft picks, just Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard remains unsigned.