This won’t exactly come to you as a shock, but rumors are building that the Cincinnati Bengals are looking to target the inside linebacker position nearly in the 2019 NFL Draft after parting ways with Vontaze Burfict, who quickly turned around and signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Oakland Big Chests.
The team does have a number of players there, including Preston Brown, whom they signed in free agency in 2018 to a one-year deal, re-signing him this offseason as well. He spent much of the previous season on the sidelines, however, and was placed on injured reserve in the middle of November.
Also returning are Nick Vigil, who was a full-time starter last season and also dealt with injuries—when he was injured by Pittsburgh Steelers fullback Roosevelt Nix in the sixth week of the season—third-year players Jordan Evans and Hardy Nickerson, Jr., and second-year Malik Jefferson. Chris Worley is a college free agent about whom there was some buzz as well.
One would think it’s possible they could cobble together a starting lineup with that group, but indications are that if they can land a Devin White in the first round, they will do so. ESPN’s Bengals beat writer Katherine Terrell made such an inference in retweeting an LSU beat writer who quoted White as saying that there was a team in love with him enough to move up to get him.
Of course, technically speaking that could be any number of teams, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it were the Bengals, and Terrell echoed that. The team’s chief writer for their own website, Geoff Hobson, had already mocked Bush to Cincinnati a month ago, long before Burfict was released.
It helps to corroborate that with the fact that the Bengals did indeed, in fact, meet with White at his Pro Day.
Devin White and Devin Bush are regarded as the top two inside linebackers in this draft class. If one of them goes off the board as early as 11, where the Bengals select, it would be a long wait to hope that the other one falls down to 20 for the Steelers to be able to pick him up without having to move up themselves to come get him.
The fact that this is not regarded as a great nor deep class for the quarterback position is also always an obstacle for every other position, because it is the one position that is chronically overdrafted, with quarterback-needy teams falling over themselves to move up the boards to get one, which pushes every other player one rung lower and makes one more player available one pick later.
Of course Bush and White aren’t the only two inside linebackers in the whole draft class, hopefully a lesson that Darius Leonard taught the front office last season. Even with the signing of Mark Barron, it would make little sense for the team to abandon the position as they did last season if their presumed first-round targets go off the board too early for them.