Cincinnati Bengals middle linebacker Rey Maualuga's being charged with assault last week puts some question marks in the team's situation at linebacker as they address off season needs. If Maualuga is convicted, it will be his second incident in two years, meaning he would face some significant time away from the game courtesy of the NFL. It would also cloud Maualuga's long-term picture with the team, meaning Cincinnati may have to address that position this off season.
One player that certainly has jumped to the top of the priority list is Brandon Johnson. Johnson has been a mainstay on special teams during his tenure with the Bengals. He's also been arguably the most consistent performer at linebacker although he's not been a starter. His knowledge of Mike Zimmer's scheme and versatility make his re-signing a must for Cincinnati.
As far as free agents that the Bengals might be interested in, there are several that might be a good fit for Zimmer's 4-3 package.
Dan Connor: Connor was highly touted coming out of Penn State, but got stuck down on the depth chart in Carolina. This season he stepped into the middle because of injury and acquitted himself well with a career high 75 tackles. With a crowded depth chart still in Carolina, Connor might be interested in being "the man" in Cincinnati if Maualuga is out for significant time.
Jonathan Goff: Goff tore his ACL during training camp and the incumbent starting MLB for the New York Giants had to watch as his team won the Super Bowl. In his absence, Cincinnati native Greg Jones played very well making it likely Goff, the Giants defensive signal caller in 2010, will be expendable.
Chase Blackburn: The Marysville, OH native made a name for himself in the post season with his leaping interception of Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. Still, he was nearly released during training camp by the Giants and only Goff's injury kept him on the roster. Will the Giants pony up and pay Blackburn, even though Greg Jones appears to be their starter in the middle? He could be another player on the Bengals' radar.
Stay with Bengals 101 as we follow this and all developing Bengals off season news.
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