Kevin Minter addition gives boost to position of need for Bengals

CINCINNATI -- The Bengals will sign free-agent linebacker Kevin Minter, a source told ESPN's Josina Anderson.

Minter is the second outside free agent the Bengals have landed this spring, joining offensive lineman Andre Smith, who was drafted by the Bengals but spent a season with the Minnesota Vikings.

They also re-signed Dre Kirkpatrick, Eric Winston, T.J. Johnson and Brandon LaFell.

Minter will add depth to their linebacker group and could contend for a starting spot right away.

Grade: B-plus. The Bengals brought in several defenders for visits, including defensive end Connor Barwin and linebacker Keenan Robinson. Minter is the only one in that group to join Cincinnati, but it's at a position of need. Minter is young at age 26, but he has starting experience. He is an ascending player who had one of his best seasons last year in Arizona, making it a solid pickup for Cincinnati.

ESPN 150 ranking: No. 34

What it means: The Bengals badly needed to upgrade their linebacker situation and Minter was named the No. 25 overall linebacker by Pro Football Focus. For comparison, Rey Maualuga was 86th and Karlos Dansby, who has since left for the Cardinals, was 46th. Maualuga regressed in 2016 and the Bengals needed to look ahead for the future. While Nick Vigil seems destined for more playing time next season, he has played very little. Minter started 32 games for the Cardinals over the past two seasons.

What’s the risk: If the Bengals can grab a young linebacker with upside, the only risk is fitting him into their system. Minter played inside in a 3-4, and the Bengals run a 4-3. That will take some adjustment, and the Bengals are often wary of signing outside free agents and prefer to build from within. Linebacker has been one of the positions in which they have bucked that trend, bringing in A.J. Hawk and Dansby, both older veterans at the end of their careers. With Minter, the Bengals are getting a player who still has several years of productivity ahead of him.

This shouldn't stop the Bengals from targeting a linebacker in the draft, however. With 11 picks, that still likely will be a position of high priority.