Rey Maualuga back at USC

August 25th, 2009. This day was one of joy for me as a fan. It was officially draft season. Our Bengals had already landed my favorite offensive tackle Andre Smith in the first-round. In the second-round, there were two possibilities at linebacker: James Laranitis or Rey Maualuga.

Obviously Laranitis was a local favorite due to the Ohio State connection. I’m sure you remember, Laranitis ended up being picked before the Bengals were on the clock. For what it’s worth, Laranitis  didn’t live up to expectations either. With the 38th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, our Cincinnati Bengals selected Rey Maualuga, linebacker, out of the University of Southern California.

Inititally, I was super excited. All I could think of were the flashbacks of Maualuga’s 48 yard interception returned for a touchdown against my Buckeyes. This guy was First Team All-Pac-10 from 2006-2008, 2008 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, 2008 Unanimous All-American; Rose Bowl MVP. Rey seemed at the time to be destined for NFL greatness. After losing Odell Thurman, I felt at the time that Maualuga would be a steal and a star for the Bengals. My brother even bought me a Rey Maualuga Bengals jersey after the draft.
Rey has struggled with shaking mental errors
We all know what happened afterwards. From the mental errors, to the bad angles, to the missed tackles and the lackluster performances. In 2012, his contract year, Rey showed a slight glimmer of hope. The Bengals brought in undrafted free agent rookie linebacker Vontaze Burfict to push Maualuga in training camp. Rey finished the season with 122 total tackles, his highest output ever. Even with this career year, it was too late  because the fans had already soured on the 2009 2nd round pick.To the fans dismay, management re-signed Maualuga to a two-year, $6.5 million contract during free agency in 2013. Due to the mental errors, the Bengals coaching staff  decided to give the play-calling responsibilities to Vontaze Burfict. They still however kept Rey in the middle. Rey still continued to regress on the field and played second fiddle to Burfict. In 2015, Maualuga was once again a free agent. The Bengals considered signing Karlos Dansby as a replacement, but ultimately decided to once again bring back Maualuga.

Around 2014, the linebacker position began to evolve as a result of the emergence of tight ends in the passing game. Linebackers had to be smaller, faster, solid tacklers & hold up in coverage. The NFL transformed into a passing league during this period and as a result, Maualuga became a dinosaur. The Bengals base defense transitioned to the nickel and significantly reduced Maualuga’s snaps.

Rey Maualuga 2016
According to FootballOutsiders, Maualuga accounted for only 29.9% of the total snaps on defense for the entire 2016 season. Given his minimized role, he was basically stole $4 million from the Bengals last year. According to Spotrac, Maualuga has a 2017 cap hit of $3.7 million dollars, without any dead cap.
This means that the Bengals could cut him for free and recoup $3.7 million. Money that could be used to retain new or upcoming free agents. Maualuga has had his fair share of chances, but like me and my Maualuga jersey, it’s time for #58 and the Bengals to part ways.
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