And while the Bengals picked up an extra draft pick, they may live to regret giving up on a 25-year-old former top-10 pick so soon.
Mike Garafalo of the Newark Star-Ledger tweeted the details of the trade, which will reportedly send a late draft pick to the Queen City in return for Rivers, who missed the entire 2011 season after surgery to repair a wrist injury.
The Giants used a patchwork group of linebackers last season after starting middle linebacker Jonathan Goff tore his ACL in the preseason, and with Goff a free agent, New York apparently believed that Rivers would provide depth at worst, and he could move into the starting lineup at best.
With the re-signing of linebacker Manny Lawson, the solid play of Thomas Howard last year and Rey Maualuga seemingly entrenched in the middle in Cincinnati, there really wasn't a place in the lineup for Rivers with the Bengals, which may have made the fifth-year pro expendable.
Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer believes that's what may have finally led to the trade, especially given how active the Bengals have been lately in jettisoning players to acquire picks. According to Reedy:
With the play of Thomas Howard last season and Vincent Rey being able to back him up, Rivers is a player who the Bengals could get at least a late-round pick for.
The Bengals also have been very active when it has come to trades. Since last July they have made four — Chad Ochocinco to New England for a 2012 fifth- and 2013 sixth-round pick, Clinton McDonald to Seattle for Kelly Jennings, Taylor Mays from San Francisco for a seventh-round pick in 2013 and Carson Palmer to Oakland for a first this year and second next year.
Did the Cincinnati Bengals Give Up on Keith Rivers Too Soon?
However, Rivers has shown flashes of talent in the past, including racking up 77 tackles and a sack in 13 starts on the weak side two years ago.
That makes a late fifth-round pick feel like an awfully paltry haul for Rivers—even though he missed all of last year due to injury, it wasn't the sort of malady that inspires fear of recurrence, and Rivers remains a very young man.
This trade also significantly hurts Cincinnati's depth at linebacker, and while that loss can be addressed in the draft, it still stings. And that sting will be multiplied tenfold if Rivers fulfills the potential the Bengals originally saw in him for the Giants.