Preston Brown is back in his hometown.
The Queen City native has spent his first four years in Buffalo, where he developed into a dependable starter at middle linebacker. But after the Bills let him walk, the Bengals brought him back to help their defense take the next step.
If things go well for Brown, there is no doubt the Bengals will consider making him the long-term inside linebacker. Brown will be following in the steps of A.J. Hawk, Karlos Dansby, and Kevin Minter as an incoming free agent linebacker. He is not joining a prestigious club, but Brown is only 25 years old and has had four years of solid production.
This combination of youth, skill, and experience is something that neither Hawk, Dansby, nor Minter had. Brown has the tools to set himself apart as the best MIKE linebacker of the Marvin Lewis era.
Weight: 251 pounds
Hometown: Cincinnati, OH
Experience: Fifth-Year Player
Preston Brown will be playing in front of his friends and family as a member of the home team for the first time since 2009.
Brown was born in Cincinnati and played high school ball at Northwest High School. He almost stuck around the Queen City for college, but ended up decommitting from Cincinnati for Louisville.
He was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the third round of the 2014 draft. Drafted as an inside linebacker, he had started at the WILL in his NFL debut and started at SAM in his second game. Over 14 starts, he collected 109 total tackles during his rookie season.
In 2015, new head coach Rex Ryan moved Brown back inside, which is where he would spend the rest of his Bills career. Over four years in Buffalo, Brown recorded 512 combined tackles and started every game after his rookie season.
The Bengals have signed a free agent linebacker every year for the past four years in hopes that they would plug up the middle. Each year, however, the middle linebacker position has been severely lacking. The Bengals are hoping to find a skilled and durable player in Brown to put beside Vontaze Burfict and Nick Vigil.
Brown has a unique mix of size, athleticism, talent, and intelligence. He has a good chance at being the quarterback of the defense in the middle of a unit that has seen so much tumult over the years.
The Bengals didn’t re-sign Kevin Minter, so the starting MIKE slot is vacant. Vincent Rey and Jordan Evans could challenge for the spot, but neither has been a full-time starter in the NFL. Preston Brown, on the other hand, has started all but two games in his career.
The Bengals brought him in to start at inside linebacker in Week 1, so he’s a lock.
Roster Odds: 99 percent