Quite a few of the Bengals’ 2017 free agents are gearing up to become much richer.
After making a modest rookie salary for the first four years of their respective careers, Dre Kirkpatrick and Kevin Zeitler received their first tastes of big-time NFL money when they played on their fifth year options in 2016. After making less than $3 million each in their first four years, Zeitler cashed in with an $8.070 million salary in 2016 while Kirkpatrick took home $7.507 million.
Now, those players are both bound for even more lucrative deals, and not just for one year, but for the long-haul. Spotrac projects Zeitler will make $11.6 million per year on his next contract, while Kirkpatrick figures to make at least $8 million per year moving forward. For comparison, Adam Jones received a three year contract extension from the Bengals last offseason that pays him an average annual salary of $7.3 million. A contract paying Kirkpatrick more than $9 million per year would make him among the top 15 highest paid cornerbacks in the league in 2017 (as of now). That could change once many of this year’s free agent cornerbacks hit the market and receive new lucrative deals.
The MMQB's Andy Benoit came up with a list of 25 players who could get even richer in free agency and interestingly while Kirkpatrick made the list, Zeitler did not. The list includes familiar names like Le'Veon Bell, Eric Berry, Chandler Jones and Melvin Ingram, all in the top seven. The list also explores the best fits for each of these players, and for Ingram, Benoit actually mentions the Bengals among his best three matches. The other two teams are the Browns and the Chargers (his current team). Now, there are just about 1,000 things I could see the Bengals doing this offseason before signing as big of a free agent as Ingram will be. Spotrac projects the current Chargers linebacker will make more than $17 million annually and nearly $90 million in total on his next contract. So, count the Bengals out of that situation as there's nearly zero chance the team spends that much on an outside free agent.
Toward the end of the top 25 list, coming in as the 17th ranked player (and fourth cornerback) who could get even richer in free agency, you'll find Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.
17. DRE KIRKPATRICK, CB, BENGALS
He’s prone to the occasional mistake, though those have been fewer and further between over time. Not many corners have his combination of length and hip fluidity.
Match Game: CIN, TEN, TB
I’d say there’s a relatively good chance the Bengals lock up Kirkpatrick right before free agency begins, if not shortly after March 9 at 4 p.m. ET when free agency does kick off. With the uncertainty surrounding Adam Jones, keeping at least one of the team’s starting cornerbacks from 2016 in the fold should be a priority after this past season saw a big shakeup among the team’s defensive backs.
What do you believe is a fair price for the Bengals to offer Kirkpatrick to re-sign him to a long-term deal in Cincinnati.