While the Cincinnati Bengals may be on their bye week, during which they saw their two chief division rivals create a two-way tie for the division lead, just a half-game ahead of themselves after they managed to draw in their final game of the first half of the season, the defending AFC North champions were not idle.
For one thing, just yesterday, the Bengals worked out a contract for Wallace Gilberry, who is now back in Cincinnati after he signed with the Lions during the offseason. The veteran journeyman defensive end, however, suffered an injury in the fourth game of the season that landed him on injured reserve.
He and Detroit worked out an injury settlement just a week later, and about a month after being first put on injured reserve, found himself where he has spent almost half of his career, in Cincinnati, to contribute to a defensive line rotation that struggled a bit without him.
Gilberry spent the first four seasons of his career with the Chiefs from 2008 to 2011. After a very brief stint with the Buccanneers—he was released on September 14 in 2012 and never dressed for a game—the Bengals signed him four days later, and he ended up spending the next four years there.
Gilberry was a starter in 2014, but his sack production declined to just 1.5 after he registered 14 sacks in his first two seasons. As a rotational end, he had two sacks in 2015. In four games with the Lions, he registered five tackles.
It’s not entirely clear what Gilberry’s role will be back in Cincinnati, because the Bengals had just been talking about the fact that they were looking to get one of their young defensive ends, Will Clarke, more playing time, and Margus Hunt has also been seeing more action.
The Bengals did not need to make a roster move in order to add Gilberry to the roster because they had already done so previously, releasing cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris, who was subsequently claimed off waivers by the Ravens, and who dressed on Sunday against the Steelers, though he did not play.
But Gilberry will certainly play against the Steelers the next time the Bengals and Pittsburgh meet, and he has often served in the role of the agitator in the recent incarnation of the rivalry between the two teams. He played an integral role in the late action of the playoff game last season.
Interestingly, when the Steelers played the Lions during the preseason, Gilberry seemed to be pretty amicable, and chalked it all up to the rivalry within the division. But now he is back in that rivalry, so perhaps he won’t be so amicable the next time around.
How much he has left remains to be seen, as well. While in his ninth season overall, Gilberry will be turning 32 in less than a month, and, as noted earlier, his production has been on the decline. The Bengals have already been looking to shift from more experienced players to younger players, and Gilberry would be a bit of a contradiction to that, with Clarke and Hunt looking to see more snaps.