Can the almost-was pass rusher Aaron Maybin find a long-term home in Cincinnati?
The Cincinnati Bengals made a roster move on Friday (per The Cincinnati Enquirer), signing linebacker Aaron Maybin to a futures contract that will have him added to the 53-man roster in early February.
Maybin, who was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the 2009 draft, was thought of as a bust—the one-time pass rush specialist recorded no sacks for the Bills in his first two seasons in the NFL before being shipped off to the New York Jets.
He had six sacks as a 3-4 outside linebacker for New York in 2011 (he was a 4-3 defensive end in Buffalo), but was cut at the halfway point of the 2012 season after having just nine quarterback pressures with no sacks.
Though the Bengals have five linebackers who are about to become unrestricted free agents this offseason—Manny Lawson, Rey Maualuga, Vincent Rey, Dan Skuta and the injured Thomas Howard—Maybin's skill set is that of a pass-rusher, making it unlikely that he was brought on to be a potential replacement for any of these men.
In the Bengals' scheme, Maybin will reprise his role as a 4-3 defensive end and it's quite possible he'll have a future in Cincinnati.
Maybin hasn't had a productive career to be sure, especially considering his draft status. However, his troubles as a situational pass-rusher aren't entirely chalked up to his perceived lack of talent.
As Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post pointed out prior to Maybin's release (and yes, he still called him a "bust"), the fact that the Jets defense was terrible on first and second downs made it almost impossible for them to successfully rush the passer on third downs, where Maybin is most dangerous.
While the Bengals had an excellent pass-rushing defensive line in 2012, recording over 50 sacks and 305 total quarterback pressures, it doesn't mean their front four is as good as it could be.
The Bengals still need more pass-rushers to help take attention away from defensive tackle Geno Atkins and Maybin can certainly be used in that capacity.
Maybin lacks size—he tried to put on weight in 2012—which makes him less useful against the run, giving a one-dimensionality to his game. He'll never be an every-down starter for the Bengals in their base defense.
However, the fact that Cincinnati relies heavily on rotating its defensive linemen works in Maybin's favor. The Bengals simply don't need him to play every snap, even if he could.
Ultimately, the addition of Maybin to the roster is decidedly low-risk. At worst, he simply doesn't work out and is released. At best, he adds an extra dimension to their pass rush and provides alternatives should impending free agents Robert Geathers and Michael Johnson not get new deals.
On a more consistent defense and working with a strong defensive mind like Mike Zimmer, it's possible that Maybin could finally find his niche in the NFL. He might be an undersized, one-note defender, but if that one note adds to the Bengals' defensive symphony, then it doesn't matter.
And if he cannot find harmony in Cincinnati, it's not as though the team gave up anything of value to get him.