The Cincinnati Bengals again will feature one of the NFL's best backfields in 2016 in Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, who will be toting the rock together for at least two more years.
That's because Hill is still on his rookie contract through the 2017 season, and Bernard just received his first NFL contract extension last week. It came when Bernard signed an extension for an additional three years at just over $15.5 million that doesn't expire until after the 2020 offseason.
The new deal includes an average annual salary of $5,166,667 over those three new years. On June 9th, Bernard received $5 million in guarantees as part of that deal, including a $3 million signing bonus. His cap hit for 2016 is $4,621,517. His dead cap hit if he is cut before his contract expires is rather significant until 2019, when it drops to just $750,000. We probably won't have to worry about that, though, as the Bengals rarely cut veterans before their contracts expire.
Here is a look at the entire deal, courtesy of Over The Cap.
The Bengals running back group is quite impressive. In terms of talent, experience, versatility and depth, no other position on the Bengals roster meets that criteria better than the quartet of Hill, Bernard, Rex Burkhead and Cedric Peerman. With those guys all being locks for the 53-man roster this fall, the ground game will once again be one of the Bengals' biggest strengths.
However, Burkhead and Peerman will be free agents in 2017, and Hill's deal expires in 2018, meaning Bernard is the future at running back for the Bengals for now. The former second-round pick out of North Carolina was entering the final year of his rookie contract and, before the extension, was set to make just $1.07 million in 2016.
During his first three years in the NFL, Bernard has rushed for 2,105 yards on 495 carries (4.3 yards per carry) 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.
Now, Bernard will make $5.5 million this season and over $8 million through the next two years, a deal more Bernard has proven worthy of during his first three years in the NFL. In the final year of his deal, he'll make $4.55 million, though if he's cut before June 1, 2019, the dead money would be a reasonable $750,000. If he continues to improve while keeping even just his current workload, this may end up being a huge bargain for the Bengals, something they need more of if they are to keep all of their best players under contract.