Maualuga was a longtime fixture in the middle for the Bengals, but it was clear from the start of the 2016 season that it could be his last.
Maualuga only played nine snaps in the season opener against the Jets and his playing time was erratic throughout the year. A midseason fibula injury caused him to miss a game, but he was a healthy inactive in another.
Once the Bengals signed linebacker Kevin Minter in free agency, the writing was on the wall for the 30-year-old Maualuga, who was due to make $3.6 million in salary and bonuses.
That was too much money to justify keeping him around in what had become a reduced role. Because of the way the contract was structured, the Bengals will have no dead money penalty for releasing him. Once they acquired Minter, it was easy to move on.
Maualuga appeared to slow down in his final season in Cincinnati and clearly was not the same player he once was. He finished the season with only 27 total tackles. Pro Football Focus rated Maualuga as one of the worst linebackers in the league in 2016, ranking him 86th among all players at that position.
With the addition of the 26-year-old Minter, and the third-round selection of Nick Vigil in last year's draft, it's clear the Bengals wanted to get younger and faster at that position. With 11 picks, they will likely add another linebacker in the 2017 draft.
Getting younger at linebacker is part of an overall shift the Bengals' locker room has taken on in the offseason. In addition to Maualuga, longtime veterans Domata Peko and Andrew Whitworth are now gone, along with guard Kevin Zeitler.
Only 10 Bengals players are over the age of 30.
While it's hard to say how the moves will pan out on the offensive side of the ball, releasing Maualuga and adding Minter could breathe some life back into a position that badly needed a jolt.