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Bengals Exit Interview: Running Back Giovani Bernard

Will 2016 be the final year of Giovani in Bengals stripes?

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals backfield has been one of the league's most explosive units ever since Giovani Bernard came to the Queen City.

Originally selected in the second round out of North Carolina in the 2013 NFL Draft, Bernard was one of the picks acquired in the Carson Palmer trade. Given how much of an asset Bernard has been since then, the Bengals made out pretty good with that trade.

Over his first three years in the NFL, Bernard has rushed for 2,105 yards on 495 carries (4.3 ypc) with 12 touchdowns. He's become one of the league's best dual-threat backs, catching 148 passes for 1,335 yards and five more scores. That includes 730 rushing yards on 154 carries (4.7 ypc) and two scores with 49 catches for 472 yards this past season.

Despite his 5-foot-9, 205-pound frame, Bernard has been pretty durable, missing just three games out of a possible 51 games (includes the playoffs).

Though he's shared carries with Jeremy Hill for the past two seasons, there's no question Bernard has been a very pivotal part of the Bengals offense. Over the last three seasons, only A.J. Green (253) has more catches than Bernard (148).

That's right. Tyler Eifert, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu have less catches over that span, showing just how valuable Bernard has been as a pass-catcher, in addition to leading the Bengals in rushing since 2013.

But will 2016 be the final year of Bernard in Bengals stripes? As of now, 2016 is the final year of his rookie deal, leaving a bit of uncertainty regarding his future. It doesn't help his case that Jeremy Hill has gotten the bulk of the carries over the past two seasons.

Then again, Hill's fumbling and consistency issues have kept him from fully taking over the No. 1 running back role, not to mention the Bengals seem to prefer Bernard as the No. 2 guy so he can get a lot of targets in the passing game as well. That's probably the best method for both guys impacting the Bengals' offense the most, so hopefully the team finds a way to re-sign Bernard, regardless of whether he's the No. 1 or No. 2 option.

I'd expect the Bengals to make an effort to sign Bernard to an extension this offseason, and those efforts will only increase if guys like Jones and Sanu leave in free agency.