As the Miami Dolphins reach for linebacker depth after the season-ending knee injury to promising rookie Raekwon McMillan, the team has decided to bring in and sign former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga. He posted a photo of himself in Dolphins gear inside the practice bubble in Davie on Saturday.
Maualuga, 30, came in for a workout with the Dolphins a few days ago along with fellow veteran and former Dolphin Kelvin Sheppard, who recently signed with the Chicago Bears.
Maualuga was a former second round draft pick for the Bengals back in 2009, and he spent eight seasons with them as one of the staple linebackers in their defense, starting 104 games, making 584 tackles, four sacks, seven interceptions and six forced fumbles.
The Bengals decided to part ways with Maualuga this offseason in an effort to shed salary, as well as - no doubt - his tendency to get nicked up with injuries of his own. He has only played in all 16 games twice in his eight year career, but he has never missed more than four games per season.
Coach Marvin Lewis said this following the release: “Rey has been a tough and productive player for us, and a fine teammate, and this is a difficult decision. It’s one of several we have made to transition to a younger group at linebacker as we continue to shape our 2017 roster. We wish Rey and his family the very best.”
The decision for the Dolphins to go with Maualuga over the likes of Sheppard could potentially be due to the familiarity shared between Maualuga and new defensive coordinator Matt Burke, who spent two seasons (2014-15) as the linebacker coach for the Bengals.
Now, Maualuga will push current projected replacement Mike Hull for a starting position, as well as young outside linebacker Neville Hewitt, who is currently nursing a shoulder injury and could see his role being decreased with the signing of another veteran.
Maualuga spent a large amount of time on the outside for the Bengals, which is where the competition with Hewitt comes in.
It's unknown how much of a contribution Maualuga will make at this point of the preseason, but the Dolphins appear to be putting everything on the line for 2017, as they have used up almost all of this year's salary cap to fill the holes left by injuries.
Thankfully, Maualuga will only be making the veteran minimum of $900,000, and thanks to the "minimum salary benefit," he will count for only $615,000 against the team's strained salary cap. The MSB was previously used on cornerback Alterraun Verner.
If all goes well, the investment will pay its dividends.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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