While the Cincinnati Bengals lost starting safety Reggie Nelson during free agency, they were able to re-sign George Iloka, and they extended Shawn Williams, who will enter the starting lineup full-time in place of Nelson. But in order to replenish their depth, the Bengals went out and re-signed Taylor Mays, even knowing that he was facing a suspension due to a violation of the substance abuse policy.
Cincinnati recently released him, however, after it was revealed that he will be subject to an additional suspension that would make him unavailable for the first half of the 2016 season after yet another violation of the substance abuse policy was levied against him.
While not drafted by Cincinnati, Mays has spent the majority of his career playing for the Bengals. Originally drafted by the 49ers, he was traded to the Bengals just a year later, for just a seventh-round draft pick, and spent the 2011 through 2014 seasons there, logging 61 tackles, a sack and a safety, as well as a handful of passes defensed.
While he played primarily on special teams, the Bengals liked to used him on occasion as a sub-package player, a sort of safety-linebacker hybrid due to the versatility that an athlete of his size and athleticism could offer in passing situations.
While the Bengals did release him, they have not ruled out re-signing him after he serves his suspension, according to reports, which would not be a great surprise, given that Cincinnati has rarely ever seemed to shy away from players with just about any sort of checkered past. Of course the Steelers are currently not in a position to talk.
Interestingly, the press release about Mays’ release from the team website makes no mention of the fact that the move coincided with their learning of the fact that he would be serving two four-game suspensions to start the 2016 season, rather than one.
Instead, they cite having had the opportunity to get a better look at the team’s young safeties and linebackers in determining that “the Bengals were rapidly running out of room for backups and special teamers”, naming Josh Shaw and rookie Clayton Fejedelem at safety, as well as rookie Nick Vigil, a third-round pick, at linebacker.
It may be true that the Bengals have a bit more depth in that area that some might realize, but it is certainly more than a little disingenuous to completely leave out the fact that Mays’ additional suspension was a motivating factor in his being released.
As for Shaw, a second-year player, he played in 15 games last year, starting one, and recorded 23 tackles with one pass defensed. A former USC product like Mays and over six feet tall, he may well be able to serve in some type of role similar to that envisioned for Mays, but his role would seem to be even more secure now with the veteran having been released.