Published: Thursday, March 05, 2015 @ 5:06 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 05, 2015 @ 5:06 PM
By: Jay Morrison - Staff Writer
CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals answered one of the many questions they have at linebacker Thursday with the re-signing of Rey Maualuga to a three-year contract.
A seven-year veteran who has been with the Bengals since the team selected him in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft, Maualuga would have become a free agent Tuesday.
“Rey is a physical force on the field and a great teammate in our locker room,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said in a statement. “He’s a hard-working, dedicated player who continues to get better. As we have put together playoff teams the last four years, we’ve said more than once that a huge key is keeping productive players who know our system, and this is another big step in that plan.”
Maualuga played some of the best football of his career last season after coming back from a hamstring injury that forced him to miss four games.
His return at middle linebacker sparked the run defense as the Bengals allowed 82 rushing yards per game in Weeks 10-16, the second-lowest total in the NFL during that span.
Maualuga has averaged nearly 100 tackles per year (597 total) and has finished second in tackles four consecutive seasons from 2010-13 before the injury limited him to 59 stops last year.
His return adds some stability to a position full of questions after Pro Bowl WIL backer Vontaze Burfict missed the final nine games with a knee injury that led to offseason microfracture surgery.
The Bengals are hoping Maualua will be the first of their own free agents they are able to re-sign, with left guard Clint Boling and kicker Mike Nugent also being high on their priority list.
Free agency officially begins Saturday, when players not under contract for 2015 are able to negotiate with other teams. Beginning at 4 p.m. Tuesday, free agents are able to sign with new teams.