NFL Free Agency: Manny Lawson Signs with the Cincinnati Bengals

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistAugust 2, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 14:  Sam Bradford #8  of the St. Louis Rams is hit by Manny Lawson #99 of the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on November 14, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Manny Lawson, who spent the first five seasons of his career with the San Francisco 49ers, has agreed to a contract with the Cincinnati Bengals. Lawson will immediately step into a starting linebacker role for a team that allowed nearly 25 points per game in 2010.

Mike Florio of broke the news late last night:

Linebacker Manny Lawson, the 22nd overall pick in the 2006 draft, spent five years with the 49ers. He’ll now spend at least one with the Bengals.

Per a league source, the Bengals have agreed to terms with the unrestricted free agent. It’s a one-year deal worth $3 million.

At just $3 million, Lawson is a borderline steal for Cincinnati. Since the length of the contract is just one season, Lawson's list of potential suitors was probably small. He will slide into the SAM linebacker position and try to increase his value before next offseason.

Lawson has been pretty durable throughout his career. In 2007, he played just two games before tearing his ACL in practice. Aside from that season, he played in 62 of a possible 64 games for the 49ers.

A first-round pick out of North Carolina State in 2006, Lawson was never able to match the lofty expectations of a team's first selection. His peak season came two years ago when he recorded 68 tackles and 6.5 sacks.

The 6'5'', 240-pound linebacker has racked up 240 tackles and 15 sacks during his five-year career. He was expected to be a much more vaunted pass rusher coming out of college, but he has never managed to develop into an elite sack master.

He does have the ability to guard tight ends and has become a better all-around linebacker since his debut, but the 49ers would have traded that all-around ability for 15 sacks per season in a heartbeat.

Sometimes getting away from the pressure of being a first-round pick can rejuvenate a career. By signing with the Bengals, Lawson will remain stealth to the majority of football fans and since the contract is so cheap, Bengals fans won't have high expectations.

That should be a situation where he is able to thrive and produce the best numbers of his career. He had clearly fallen out of favor in San Francisco but should be able to play on all three downs for the Bengals. That will provide a boost to his stats by default.

Overall, this seems like a perfect match. The Bengals get a talented linebacker to fill a void in their starting lineup while Lawson can attempt to prove himself worthy of a bigger contract next summer.