The middle linebacker spot just cleared up considerably.
On Monday afternoon, Commissioner Roger Goodell reinstated suspended middle linebacker Odell Thurman.
“Odell has met the NFL’s conditions for reinstatement and has been added to our offseason roster,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said in a statement released by the club. “It is now up to Odell to continue to meet all NFL guidelines, and to maintain a standard of personal responsibility that will allow him the chance to compete for a spot on our team.”
Thurman was coming off a 2-year suspension for multiple violations of the NFL's substance abuse policy.
His likelihood for reinstatement was increased in January, when he was granted by the NFL to resume working out with teammates at Paul Brown Stadium.
Cincinnati took Thurman in the second round in the 2005, a draft in which the Bengals would soon rather forget.
The Bengals also drafted David Pollack (1st round), Chris Henry (2nd round), Eric Ghuicaiuc (fourth round), and Tab Perry (6th round). Of that group, only center Ghuicaiuc is a 2008 projected starter for the Bengals.
Thurman will look to resume a polarized career in Cincinnati, coming off great on-field production, but far less off the field.
In 2005, Thurman lead the team with 148 tackles, 4 forced fumbles, and tied the league lead for interceptions by a rookie with 5.
Thurman was first suspended for four games in 2006, but that was later extended to the entire '06 season by Goodell.
His habitual drunk and alcohol abuse, stemmed with the fact he admitted being an alcoholic in front of a Cincinnati judge, extended his year-long suspension into the 2007 season.
This can only come as good news for a Bengals defense that is starved for a playermaker on that side of the ball. With new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer hinting at multiple 3-4 sets, Thurman, teamed with a healthy Ahmad Brooks, could create an athletic, playmaking-tandum at inside linebackers.
This decision may also affect what the Bengals and others may do in the upcoming draft. It may prevent Cincinnati from looking at Keith Rivers, linebacker from USC, and provide even more emphasis to take teammate Sedrick Elllis with the ninth overall pick.
Don't be surprised, however, if with Ellis gone, the Bengals still take Rivers with the best available defensive player on the board.
The Bengals may still need help at outside linebacker, a spot opened up by the departure of Landon Johnson in free agency.
Regardless, deep down Marvin Lewis is celebrating this Monday.
He just got his playmaker back.