Rey Maualuga continued to underachieve during his contract year with Cincinnati.
Recently, we took a look at the top-five free agents who should be retained by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013. Now, it is time to scope out the top five who should be allowed to hit the open market during the offseason.
The Bengals have 22 unrestricted free agents heading into 2013. Some of these players will be immediate priorities for the Bengals' front office. Others will have to hope to find work elsewhere in the NFL.
The free agents listed here may be allowed to walk away from the Bengals for different reasons. It may not be just due to under-performing, but could be due to injury or the lack of need for their skill set.
Cincinnati has a young and talented roster. Decisions made this offseason will be pivotal as the team tries to build on its recent success.
The Bengals' front office and coaching staff will have to examine these players closely to determine what will be best for the team going forward.
So, without further ado, let's take a look at the top-five Bengals free agents who should not be retained.
Nate Clements has shown his age of late and has not been serviceable as a cornerback or a safety.
The Bengals have an iffy secondary at best, with several key players set to hit the free agent market this offseason. Terence Newman and Adam Jones are two likely candidates to be re-signed with the club.
Nate Clements is a whole different story.
Clements started the season at the corner position, but quickly showed his age, struggling to keep up with some of the quicker receivers in the league.
After some troublesome safety play, Clements was shifted to take over at the position. This turned out to be a huge failure.
The transition to safety was not something that came easy to this veteran. His closing speed was a major issue, as he had trouble playing center field.
Often, Clements seemed lost and found himself out of position and unable to make a play on either the ball or the intended receiver.
Signs indicate that the Bengals could look for a safety either early in the draft or in the free agent market, which makes Clements expendable.
Generally, a veteran like this could be retained to help guide young players early in their careers. But his lack of knowledge at the safety position does not warrant this type of deal.
It is time for Cincinnati to cut ties with Clements altogether.
Bernard Scott was intended to be the change-of-pace back for Cincinnati this season, but injury plagued him yet again.
Another position that is slightly iffy for the Bengals is running back. BenJarvus Green-Ellis shoulders most of the load.
He had a nice second half of the season and could be even more effective if paired with a nice change-of-pace running back.
This was supposed to be the role of Bernard Scott heading into the 2012 season. And he put up decent numbers in limited playing time, rushing eight times for 35 yards, including a long rush of 29 yards for a 4.4 yard-per-carry average.
The problem with Scott is that he was supposed to have a featured role in the offense, but injuries made that impossible. Since joining the Bengals, Scott has struggled to stay healthy. He has only played in all 16 games twice in his four years with the club.
The Bengals are indeed looking to draft a quick running back, which will make the injury-prone Scott expendable.
Going forward, Cincinnati needs to find a running back who it can trust to stay healthy for the duration of the season and become a major cog in the offensive scheme.
Mike Nugent has struggled with inaccuracy and injury in 2012, paving the way for Josh Brown to shine.
He was solid in the 12 games he played in 2012, connecting on 19-of-23 field goals.
To make matters worse, he suffered an injury late in the season that prompted the Bengals to sign Josh Brown in his absence.
Brown absolutely shined for the last four games of the regular season and one postseason game. He managed to hit 11-of-12 field goals, with his only miss a 56-yard attempt in poor conditions in Pittsburgh.
During his run, Brown was so impressive that when Nugent was healthy enough to come back, the Bengals decided to stick with Brown for the remainder of the season.
Brown was absolutely clutch while kicking a last-second field goal to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers and clinch a playoff berth for the Bengals.
He continued his success in the playoffs against the Houston Texans, connecting on two more field goals in that game.
Brown has proven that he is the hot kicker right now and deserves to be retained. The Bengals should let Nugent hit the open market.
Brandon Tate had a very sub-par year in both the receiving game as well as the return game.
Brandon Tate may deserve to be on this list more than any other Bengal. Tate failed at receiver and as a return man in 2012.
The Bengals experimented early in the season with Tate as a complementary receiver to A.J. Green. But that did not last long. Tate was targeted 25 times and only hauled in 13 passes for 211 yards and a score.
He did not seem to have the ability to get comfortable on the field and was seen running some very suspect routes.
This led the Bengals' coaching staff to pull him from his wide-receiving duties and use him olely as a return specialist.
Well, the return game for Tate was not much better.
Tate had average numbers in the return game, but did manage to break off a couple of big runs, returning a punt 32 yards and a kickoff 45 yards.
However, he had a tough time figuring out when to call for a fair catch deep in Bengals territory.
At times, Tate would attempt to catch a punt well inside the 10-yard line. This is a big no-no for any returner. Because of this, the Bengals were left with poor field position in many games.
Tate also struggled on kick returns. He was not reading the coverage units well enough and made terrible decisions when attempting to run the ball out of his own end zone. Again, this led to poor field position for the offense.
The Bengals have several other players who are capable of taking over return responsibilities. Tate is unlikely to be back in Cincinnati next season as the Bengals look for a better option on special teams.
Rey Maualuga may be the most under achieving Cincinnati Bengal on the 2012 roster.
Was there any question which Cincinnati free agent would top this list?
Rey Maualuga was the epitome of an under-achieving football player in 2012. This was supposed to be the year when Maualuga was finally become the leader of the defense.
Instead of capitalizing on this opportunity, he remained his old self. Maualuga was even called out by head coach Marvin Lewis in the middle of the season.
Linebackers coach Paul Guenther did everything he could with Maualuga. This included forcing him to drop weight in attempt to get quicker on the field.
Mualuga dropped the weight and did get quicker, but that could not help the poor technique with which he played.
During the season, Maualuga was constantly seen over-pursuing in the running game, which allowed gaping holes to open up for opposing running backs. He also had a difficult time shedding blocks, which rendered the same results.
To make matters worse, Maualuga was even more lackadaisical in pass coverage, allowing opposing tight ends plenty of room to maneuver over the middle of the field.
Finally, when Maualuga was one-on-one in open space, he continued to struggle making those crucial open-field tackles, which is something a linebacker should be capable of doing.
Pro Football Focus ranked Maualuga last in their linebacker rankings for 2012, which says it all about his poor efficiency on the field.
With the stellar play of rookie Vontaze Burfict, the Bengals could move him back to his natural position in the middle, which would allow Cincinnati to finally cut ties with Maualuga, their former second-round draft selection.
There is always a slight chance that the Bengals bring back Maualuga at a cheap price as a backup linebacker. But it is hard to see defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer allowing such a thing.
Maualuga will most likely have to attempt to continue his career in the NFL with another team in 2013.