The Cincinnati Bengals re-signed linebacker Germaine Pratt this offseason, and they will likely keep Logan Wilson beyond his rookie contract as well. That may make it seem like the linebacker position is locked up.
While we don’t have to worry about the team finding serious competition for their starters, they will need to find depth from this class of prospects somehow.
That makes the report from Justin Melo from the Draft Network that Cincinnati Bearcats linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. met with the Bengals prior to the draft a bit more understandable.
@GoBEARCATS LB Ivan Pace Jr. had 137 tackles, 21.5 TFL + 10.0 sacks in 2022! BALL PLAYER.— Justin M (@JustinM_NFL) April 15, 2023
Recent Zoom meetings for Pace include #Titans and #Eagles. In person visit with #Bengals last week.
✍️ @ivan_pacejr x @TheDraftNetwork https://t.co/YisJ2a3mbB
Pace was a very productive linebacker for the Bearcats last season after transferring from Miami (Ohio). He was all over the field making big plays. The numbers speak for themselves that he is a very impactful player.
That may lead you to wonder why Pace is projected as a Day 3 pick. The easiest answer is the most obvious, unfortunately. Pace is only 6’ tall and under 250 pounds. There are serious questions about how well he can translate to the NFL.
The things Pace is good at do coincide with things the Bengals want to do on defense. He has shown a knack for knowing how to blitz the quarterback or when to close in as a quarterback spy. He can also be a decent coverage option in zone coverage.
The problem is when a team decides to just run at Pace in the NFL. How well will he be able to handle that? Will he be able to get off blocks or avoid being blocked as well? He obviously plays with a chip on his shoulder with how his engine runs, so it wouldn’t be smart to bet against him.
Markus Bailey and Akeem Davis-Gaither are headed into the final year of their contracts, and they seem like low priorities after re-signing Pratt. That means the team will need some cheap options for the players behind Pratt and Wilson going forward. Drafting them this season and stashing them on the practice squad or playing special teams would be a great way of getting some experience for those guys rather than shoving a rookie out there into major playing time if we see an injury in 2024.
The Bengals’ window is now, but they can keep it open a bit longer by making moves like this to be a bit more flexible on who they can spend money on.
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