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Bengals 2018 free agency profile: Linebacker Kevin Minter

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The veteran inside linebacker was one of the team’s big outside free agents last offseason, but he only signed a one-year deal. After a disappointing prove-it campaign, will Cincinnati look to bring Kevin Minter back?

NFL: Chicago Bears at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals currently have 10 unrestricted free agents who are not under contract for 2018. Of those 10, the roles on the team have varied in their respective tenures.

This franchise prefers to look inwardly when the free agency period opens in March, so we’re taking a look at the players who are set to hit the open market in a month. Will the team look at re-signing linebacker Kevin Minter a year after getting him on a rental deal?

2017 review and statistics:

When the Bengals signed Minter, outside reviews were mixed. Cincinnati got younger, faster and stronger in the middle of their defense, as Minter was replacing an aging Rey Maualuga.

However, the fears of Minter being nothing more than a marginal improvement over Maualuga came to fruition. Aside from landing on Injured Reserve after playing just nine games with the Bengals last year, Minter had minimal effects and big plays for a defense that needed it.

Minter finished with just 32 total tackles in 2017, while also having goose eggs in the statistical areas of passes defended, interceptions, sacks and forced fumbles. It wasn’t a banner year for one of the team’s few outside free agent acquisitions.

During negotiations, Minter and the Bengals played a bit of hardball, as both parties settled on a one-year deal. The idea was for Minter to prove himself to the Bengals and the rest of the league for a long-term deal in the 2018 offseason. Unfortunately for Minter, that bet didn’t quite play out in his favor.

Franchise tag and 2017 contract details:

2017 franchise tag salary for his position: $14.55 million

2018 franchise tag nominee: No

2017 contract with Bengals: One year, $4.25 million

2018 outlook and chances of re-signing:

Given his subpar season last year, Minter should come affordable for teams who come calling. And, if you’ve been around these parts recently, “affordable” is basically the mantra on the Bengals’ free agency crest.

Still, with the Bengals playing a bit of nickel base formations and their employment of new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, affordable might not be enough for Cincinnati to pounce. It sounds as if Austin plans to vary the Bengals’ defensive looks, so the role of a true middle linebacker is a bit muddy this year.

Vontaze Burfict is an excellent linebacker when he’s on the field, but a myriad of injuries and suspensions have greatly limited his impact lately. Because of a current hole in the middle and Burfict’s frequent absences, linebacker could be one of the higher picks in this year’s draft.

They passed on Reuben Foster last year and may not make the same mistake again. Still, Minter could provide insurance and flexibility in April—especially if Marvin Lewis hasn’t changed his stripes in preferring veterans over rookies in prominent roles. Either way, it’s unlikely that Minter will accept a potential backup role with the Bengals in 2018.

Chances of re-signing: 30 percent