- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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This shouldn't come as a surprise because many questioned whether the Bengals wanted Maualuga back, including Maualuga himself. He is coming off a disappointing 2012 season, and the Bengals can move promising second-year linebacker Vontaze Burfict to the middle.
Maualuga, 26, was ranked the worst inside linebacker by Pro Football Focus for this past season. He missed 16 tackles, tied for fifth-most for NFL inside linebackers, and committed six penalties, which was the second highest. Head coach Marvin Lewis, however, made Maualuga a captain in November along with quarterback Andy Dalton. So, the Bengals do value his leadership. But it was apparent in the playoff loss in Houston that the Texans were going after Maualuga in the passing game.
Unlike Maualuga, Burfict surpassed expectations after being forced into the starting lineup in Week 3 when Thomas Howard went down with a season-ending injury. Starting 14 games at weakside linebacker, Burfict totaled a team-leading 127 tackles, which ranked 15th in the NFL. He showed the same explosiveness that made him a first-round prospect coming out of Arizona State. But poor workouts and a questionable attitude led to Burfict going undrafted. Now, it appears Burfict's next move is to middle linebacker.
“I felt as if the playoff game was sort of like, 'if I perform well, they would want me,'" Maualuga said in January. "I don't know if they want me, but I do know I didn't perform well."