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Why the Bengals trading for Jets LB Darron Lee should be a no-brainer

The Jets just gave LB C.J. Mosley a huge contract, and that means they could be motivated to move on from their former first-round pick.

NFL: New York Jets at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals have once again seemed to stumble out of the gates at the beginning of free agency.

They started strong with the re-signing of C.J. Uzomah and Brandon Wilson, but then announced a ludicrous three-year deal to Bobby Hart. On top of that, they’ve continued to watch the rest of the league agree to terms with the top talent on the market, like they always do.

Before the dust of free agency settles, the Bengals have to address their need at linebacker. They have been mentioned as a team that is interested in former Broncos LB Brandon Marshall, but he fits the typical nonathletic, aging mold they have recently fallen into with free agent linebackers. A better option has appeared to make themselves available though.

With the Jets giving CJ Mosley a huge contract to man the middle of their defense, it appears the Jets are ready to move on from linebacker Darron Lee.

If Lee is being put on the trade block, the Bengals need to make an offer for him. Lee has athleticism that the Bengals don’t have at linebacker, and that athleticism was best displayed last year. 2018 was Lee’s best season as a pro, specifically in coverage, but it didn’t exactly end well. The third-year player missed the final four games due to a PED suspension — which is a red flag, but one you can easily get past when you consider the cost to acquire him.

The price tag to land him plays perfectly into the Bengals’ hands. Cincinnati currently has eight selections on the third day of the draft; including five sixth round picks, and the odds of them rostering all five of those picks is unlikely in itself. An offer of a one or two of those picks should be good enough for the Jets to part ways with a linebacker they don’t want anymore.

Lee’s contract is also very affordable. He will count for roughly $3.2 million against the cap this season. He also has an option for a fifth season since he was a first-round pick.

If the Bengals end up drafting a linebacker with one of their sixth-round picks, it’s hard to imagine Lee not having a more immediate impact. This would also open up the possibilities with their early picks so they don’t have to settle for linebackers. As great as LSU product Devin White is, there is a good chance he does not make it to the Bengals’ selection at 11th overall. Acquiring Lee wouldn’t have the Bengals scrambling on how else to fill that hole.

The Bengals’ current linebackers under contract for 2019 include Nick Vigil, Vontaze Burfict, Jordan Evans, Malik Jefferson, Hardy Nickerson and Chris Worley. Burfict is still a potential cap casualty if the new coaching staff wants to move on. His health is also a concern as he has had seven official concussions since entering the NFL. Besides him, Vigil, Evans and Jefferson currently provide the only real hope at the position, which isn’t saying much.

Vigil has plenty of starting experience, but he has yet to take that leap into a reliable every-down linebacker. Evans made some strides in his second season, but he seems like he is going to play more of the role that Vincent Rey played as the first linebacker off the bench. Jefferson remains an unknown as Marvin Lewis decided against playing him on defense during his rookie season until it was basically necessary, and then he suffered an injury.

Lee would easily come in and likely be penciled in as the starter of this group. He is cheap, which makes it hard to imagine the Cincinnati isn’t making a call to the Jets right now about a trade.