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Certain high-priced linebackers such as Anthony Spencer are also available to the Bengals.
The Bengals could also go in yet another direction, which is to sign a free-agent coming from a different team. This could end up being a great decision or end up hurting the team dearly for years to come.
Let's take Dallas Cowboys free-agent linebacker Anthony Spencer, for example.
Spencer was drafted in the first round by the Cowboys in the 2007 NFL Draft. He has recently excelled in a 3-4 scheme as an outside pass rusher.
He could possibly be a target for the Bengals in free agency, but there are certain factors to consider.
First off, Spencer would have to move into the role of a 4-3 outside linebacker, which is highly different from that of a 3-4 rushing linebacker. Many different blitz and coverage schemes that will be completely new to him will be introduced in Mike Zimmer's system.
Spencer has been an outstanding player for the Cowboys, but it is unknown if he would have the same amount of success in the Bengals' system.
This same statement could be made for any free-agent linebacker in 2013.
With Maualuga, the Bengals know exactly what they already have and exactly what needs to be improved upon, and how to best utilize his strengths.
These things would have to be discovered about a new player throughout the course of a season, which could be severely detrimental to another playoff run.
Also, Spencer made $8.8 million in 2012, which the Bengals would have to either match or increase. Compare that to the $565,000 that Maualuga made last season and you have a huge cap difference on your hands.
With the shaky play of Maualuga as of late, he will not require a contract that breaks the bank for the Bengals, which means if his play does not improve he could easily be shifted to a backup role. Spending over $8 million on a free agent would almost force the Bengals to stick with that player in a starting role even without great production.
It really could all come down to dollars and familiarity for the Bengals coaching staff on making this decision.