As the Bengals continue down a path that appears to be leading toward what could quite possibly be a winless season and the first-overall pick in next year's draft, they're ditching a veteran starter they signed for the long-term less than a year ago. 

On Tuesday, the Bengals cut linebacker Preston Brown halfway through the first season of the three-year, $16.5 million deal, which included $4.8 million guaranteed, that they gave him in March. Brown now heads to waivers. The Cincinnati Enquirer's Tyler Dragon first reported the news and it was later confirmed by the Bengals' team site.

Brown, 27, originally joined the Bengals last season on a one-year deal after spending the first four years of his career with the Bills. In the offseason, after Brown started seven games in his first season with the Bengals, he signed a three-year deal to, in theory, remain with the team through the 2021 season and help them see through a defensive rebuild under a new coaching staff. 

But Brown struggled on what was, unsurprisingly, another terrible Bengals defense. In nine games, eight of which he started, Brown generated 52 combined tackles -- the fourth-most on the team -- and one forced fumble and fumble recovery. He particularly struggled in coverage. According to Pro Football Focus, Brown graded out as the 81st best linebacker out of 90 qualified players, and allowed 20 receptions for 213 yards and two touchdowns. He was targeted in coverage 21 times, meaning he forced only one incompletion. 

It, of course, wasn't all Brown's fault. He was playing on a defense that ranks 32nd in DVOA, 32nd in yards allowed per game, and 29th in points allowed per game one year after playing on a defense that finished 28th in DVOA, 32nd in yards allowed, and 30th in points allowed -- it's no wonder why nobody wanted to take the defensive coordinator job this past offseason. Brown might've been a part of the problem, but he wasn't the only problem. Put another way, the Bengals didn't solve their defensive issues by cutting Brown.

For Brown, getting cut might just end up being the best thing for him in terms of strictly football. He'll now hit waivers, where he could get picked up by a contender in need of help in the middle of their defense. Even though Brown is in the midst of a terrible season, he's still only 27 and once upon a time in Buffalo, he actually functioned as a quality linebacker. From 2014-17, he racked up 505 total tackles -- only two All-Pro players, Bobby Wagner and Luke Kuechly, had more in that span. On a better defense, he could rejuvenate his career. And as injuries begin to mount as the calendar flips from autumn to winter, teams could do far worse than Brown to bolster their depth or even upgrade at linebacker.

As for the Bengals, well, they're more than halfway to a winless season. Brown's dismissal won't impact that much at all. 

It probably won't happen with the top-overall pick given all of their other needs and positional value, but at some point, the Bengals will need to address their linebacker group after finally parting ways with Vontaze Burfict in the offseason and now moving on from Brown, their highest-paid linebacker -- until Tuesday, anyway.