In any professional sport, when you’re a winning franchise, other teams want a piece of the action.
The Bengals may be coming off a losing season, but Dre Kirkpatrick has been part of plenty of wins in Cincinnati. He’s also slowly become one of the NFL’s better cornerbacks in a league that needs more of them.
Even an above average cornerback can make upwards of $9 million annually, and that’s probably the range of what Kirkpatrick’s next deal will pay him. Even if his market turns out to be less than anticipated, Kirkpatrick is going to be set for life with the next deal he signs.
But few people thought he would ever get there early in his career. Injuries and being buried on the depth chart behind veterans led to Kirkpatrick rarely seeing the field during his first two seasons, and even when he did, it wasn’t pretty. Between his frequent penalties, missed tackles, and blown coverages, the former 17th overall pick looked like a bust in the making.
Thankfully, Kirkpatrick had Marvin Lewis, good coaches and trusted veterans around him who helped him develop into the player we see today. During his season wrap-up meeting with the media on Monday, Lewis reflected on the journey he’s gone on with Kirkpatrick.
“Look at Dre Kirkpatrick. He comes here with the expectations of Alabama and the great things he did there,” Lewis said. “He got injured as a rookie, and didn’t get to play. He got to play some his second year. Every day he was up and down. We laugh about it now. He gave up a touchdown pass the first game of that year.
“To me, he’s grown so much. He lives here, bought a house here. He’s a guy who has grown up, and it’s been so cool to be a part of and watch. He and I still have our moments every day, of course. He looks at me and knows I’m going to give him that look.
“He goes, ‘All you have to do is give me that look, I know what you mean.’ That works,” Lewis said laughing. “There’s a number of guys like that, and it’s been great. He’s one that has a career here that didn’t get started the way he, or we, wanted. Yet he’s battled his way through it and come out the other side.”
Lewis didn’t divulge too much into the Bengals’ plans for re-signing Kirkpatrick, other than the team wants to keep their best players. However, Lewis did offer this little nugget about Kirkpatrick now being a leader.
“As I tell him now, he’s the guy that has to mentor the next group of young guys,” said Lewis.
It certainly sounds like Lewis is planning for Kirkpatrick to be back next year and help coach up the younger corners, such as William Jackson III, Darqueze Dennard, Keivarae Russell, and Josh Shaw. If he’s going to mentor the “next group of young guys”, he’ll certainly need to be on the Bengals’ roster to do it.
And with news about Adam Jones’ arrest, Kirkpatrick may end up being the most experienced corner on the roster next year, if he’s brought back, that is.