Bengals say they want to keep Maualuga

There was a report last week that the Cincinnati Bengals were unlikely to re-sign linebacker Rey Maualuga. That's not true, according to head coach Marvin Lewis and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

"He's one of the guys you got to get back in the fold," Lewis told the NFL Network.

The Bengals' top targets to retain are offensive tackle Andre Smith and defensive end Michael Johnson. From what Lewis is saying, Maualuga should be part of this group or at least in the next tier.

While he was rated as the worst inside linebacker last season by Pro Football Focus, the Bengals believe he is one of the top leaders on the team. Last November, Maualuga and quarterback Andy Dalton were named team captains in an effort by Lewis to get his team back on track.

"He is, as you will find out when this free agency period starts, a lot better than what a lot of people give him credit for," Zimmer told the team's official website. "I think that’s going to be what people are going to find out if he goes. If he’s not here people are going to miss him and say we should have had him. That’s how it works, like Justin Smith.”

Smith became a four-time Pro Bowl player after he left Cincinnati for San Francisco. I'm not sure Maualuga has that sort of production in him, but he seems to be a better fit for outside (strong-side) linebacker, where he played his first two seasons for the Bengals.

“He can (play outside), but if I remember correctly after his second year and Dhani (Jones) left, everyone was saying he should move to the (middle) when he played pretty good at (the strong side)," Zimmer said. "But he’s got to go to the (middle) linebacker, wasn’t that what everyone was saying? 'Oh, Maualuga is going to (middle linebacker), yeah.' Now everyone is going 'he should have stayed at (strong-side linebacker).' You can’t win.”