I remember back before the 2009 draft many NFL draft pundits were projecting the Baltimore Ravens to draft inside linebacker Rey Maualuga at the end of the first round. I also remember that many fans (including myself) were very excited about the idea of bringing in the former Trojan to play next to Ray Lewis.
As it was, the draft went on, Maualuga slipped to the second round where the Cincinnati Bengals scooped him up with the 38th overall pick. At the time it was considered one of the steals of the draft. I thought that he played well for the Bengals his first few season but I have to admit I didn't follow him much. Well, apparently the love affair between he and the Bengals is no longer what it once was as rumors are swirling about his outright release from the team. NFL analyst Peter King has named the Ravens as a viable landing spot for the former USC star.
Currently the Ravens are looking at the duo of Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe as the staring tandem at inside linebacker with Josh Bynes and Albert McClellan or possibly practice squad-er Nigel Carr in the mix for some secondary reps as well. That is, IF the team can retain Ellerbe and IF McClain is able to fully rebound from his injury. For the first time, in a long time, the Ravens have a lot of questions at the inside linebacker position, with the retiring of team leader and all time great Ray Lewis.
It seems that every year around this time Ravens fans and NFL draft pundits start scouring the draft for Lewis' replacement for the middle of the Ravens defense and every year the team chooses to draft elsewhere as they stick to their mantra of drafting the best available player. However, the team has struck gold in the un-drafted free agent market over the years with players like "Ellerbeast" and McClain who have stepped in to be more than suitable starters in the NFL. I'm sure the same will be done this year and many draft "experts" will have the Ravens using an early pick on an inside linebacker, not necessarily to replace or start for Lewis but for depth at the position they most definitely need.
This years number one candidate is Notre Dames Manti Te'o who also is dealing with embarrassing off the field issues and some on the field from the National Championship game in which he was thoroughly over-matched my Alabama's elite NFL style offense. Not sure how much you can put directly on Te'o considering the offensive linemen were blocking 10 yards down field, well past the Notre Dame defensive line's "strong hold".
From what I am reading over at Cincy Jungle, the Bengals SB Nation site, Maualuga had a very bad game in the playoffs and the fans are as unhappy with his play as the Bengals organization seems to be. they are quite happy with last years draft steal Vontaze Burfict who actually went from first round prospect to un-drafted due to off the field issues, on the field issues and a poor combine showing. (another player linked to the Ravens in pre-draft predictions) So, the question really is, would the Ravens even want Maualuga? Like I said before, I have not followed his individual play since he has been a Bengal but their defense has been considerably stout since 2009 so I figured he must be doing okay. According to what I've been hearing that is not the case however.
From what I have read and heard I think the Ravens may consider Maualuga for depth if the price is right. It may very well be one of those situations where, if he is still out there towards the end of free agency after the Ravens have figured out their own player contracts and have a handle on their own salary cap situation, he could be a player they could take a flier on if the price is right. the draft could play into this scenario as well, Maualuga would only be considered if they do not draft heavily at his position. I could be wrong though... Ozzie sometimes sees things in players that most others do not and more often than not he is correct. So, as usual, it will be a waiting game. Who knows, the Bengals could still consider him valuable for depth as he is a young player and already acquainted with their defensive schemes.
What do you think? Would you like to see the Ravens take a flier on their (possibly) former foe?