The Enquirer's Joe Reedy has called this new Bengals era the 'reboot'...a period starting after that awkwardly painful press conference in January 2011 annoucning Marvin Lewis and Mike Brown coming to an agreement on a new contract. Ever since then - it's been the understanding that Marvin has had more control and influence on team decisions (Chad traded, Carson eventually traded, etc).
I believe that Marvin Lewis is staking his 'reboot' reputation on the re-signing of Ray Maualuga to a 2-year deal for $6.5 million (as of this post I have not seen the guaranteed money numbers).
The Bengals might have even been negoiating with themselves...since seemingly no other team really was interested. Maualuga left Arizona with no deal - and never visited the Giants or Ravens.
I do realize that Marvin Lewis and Mike Zimmer have forgotten more about NFL defense than any knowledge I could amass in my lifetime...but I don't think it's a stretch to say that Maualuga has not been an impact player at the middle linebacker position. He hasn't even been very good.
While Marvin possibliy was spinning his comment of "we think things are good they way they are" when asked if Maualuga was moving to the SAM linebacker spot...he and Zimmer certainly has a lot tied to this deal. They both have publicly praised Maualuga and said (essentially) that fans/media have overreacted to his supposedly mediocre play. If Maualuga flops in 2013 - this would definitely bring both of their assessment abilities into question.
It's possible there wasn't a better alternative out there and this is a stop-gap until a 2013 draftee can take his place. Lewis and Zimmer see Maualuga practicing everyday, they seem him in film sessions, and they see him in the weight room. Maybe they truly believe the light has come on in what will be his 5th NFL season.
But the Ravens have lost players after a Super Bowl win, the Steelers are still in Salary Cap Hell...and the Browns are forever the Browns. The AFC North is there for the taking. The time to attack is now...not two years from now.
Marvin and Maualuga are now linked by this deal. We will know very soon if it was the right decision.