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Deep cornerback free agent market could impact Dre Kirkpatrick

Pro Football Focus ranks six cornerbacks ahead of Kirkpatrick on its list of the best free agent cornerbacks set to hit the open market.

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45 cornerbacks are currently set to hit the open market when free agency kicks off on March 9. Bengals cornerback, two-year starter and former 2012 first round draft pick Dre Kirkpatrick is among them.

Depending on who you ask, Kirkpatrick’s rank among those 45 cornerbacks varies from top 5 to top 20. Some of the guys who are expected to yield the biggest paydays among the free agent cornerback group are Logan Ryan, A.J. Bouye, Trumaine Johnson, Prince Amukamara and Stephon Gilmore.

Gilmore has said he wants top five cornerback money and Spotrac projects he'll make $14.6 million per year on his next contract, the most of any free agent cornerback.

Here’s a look at the top 15 salaries currently being paid out to cornerbacks:

Top cornerback contracts

Josh Norman (2016-2020) CB WAS 29 5 2021 $75,000,000 $15,000,000 $36,500,000
Darrelle Revis (2015-2019) CB NYJ 31 5 2020 $70,121,060 $14,024,212 $39,000,000
Patrick Peterson (2016-2020) CB ARI 26 5 2021 $70,050,000 $14,010,000 $16,249,114
Joe Haden (2015-2019) CB CLE 27 5 2020 $67,500,000 $13,500,000 $22,678,193
Byron Maxwell (2015-2020) CB MIA 28 6 2021 $63,000,000 $10,500,000 $22,000,000
Janoris Jenkins (2016-2020) CB NYG 28 5 2021 $62,500,000 $12,500,000 $28,800,000
Aqib Talib (2014-2019) CB DEN 31 6 2020 $57,000,000 $9,500,000 $11,500,000
Richard Sherman (2014-2018) CB SEA 28 4 2019 $56,000,000 $14,000,000 $12,431,000
Darius Slay (2016-2020) CB DET 26 4 2021 $48,150,000 $12,037,500 $23,100,000
Jason McCourty (2012-2017) CB TEN 29 6 2018 $43,040,000 $7,173,333 $17,000,000
Chris Harris (2015-2019) CB DEN 27 5 2020 $42,500,000 $8,500,000 $10,900,000
Jimmy Smith (2015-2019) CB BAL 28 4 2020 $41,102,000 $10,275,500 $21,000,000
Sean Smith (2016-2019) CB OAK 29 4 2020 $38,000,000 $9,500,000 $20,000,000
Robert Alford (2016-2020) CB ATL 28 4 2021 $38,000,000 $9,500,000 $12,000,000
Brandon Flowers (2015-2018) CB LAC 30 4 2019 $36,400,000 $9,100,000 $18,000,000

I think Kirkpatrick's next deal will bump some of the guys among this top 15 list off the list, as will a number of the other free agent cornerbacks. PFF recently ranked the top 10 cornerbacks set to hit the open market this year and Kirkpatrick came in as the seventh best player on the list.

7. Dre Kirkpatrick, Cincinnati Bengals (74.7)

Kirkpatrick is the third 2012 first-round pick on this list. It wasn’t until his fourth year in the league that he became a starter. Over these last two regular seasons, he has 23 penalties, which is tied for the most among cornerbacks, and 30 missed tackles, also tied for the most. When he’s not missing tackles or having yellow flags thrown because of him, he has been able to prevent catches. His 58.6 percent career catch rate allowed and 11.5 yards per catch allowed are both below the league average, and he has stayed close to those two marks each of the last two seasons. If Kirkpatrick can tone down the missed tackles and penalties, then he could start to turn his career around. Without that improvement, though, teams may be better off without him.

Kirkpatrick’s penalties have been an issue, though, many have been unwarranted by the officials. He's improved every year he's been in the league and with the investment the Bengals have put into him, it makes sense for him to be re-signed in Cincinnati. With such a deep free agent class at his position, interest in Kirkpatrick could be less significant than if players like Gilmore, Bouye, Johnson, Ryan, Morris Claiborne and Amukamara weren’t also hitting the market at the same time. Those are the six players ranked ahead of Kirkpatrick (in that order) by PFF. The rest of the top 10 is rounded out by the VikingsCaptain Munnerlyn and Terence Newman (also a former Bengal) as well as Sterling Moore of the Saints.

Interest in that group of players could factor into how much interest Kirkpatrick receives and the offers on the table. Still, Kirkpatrick will surely attract attention when free agency begins if the Bengals don’t lock him up before the legal tampering period begins on March 7. He is among PFF’s top 50 free agents, too.

Based on his age, production and the continually increasing NFL salary cap, I see Kirkpatrick’s next contract somewhere in the area of five years for $42.5 million. For reference, last year, the Bengals signed Adam Jones to a 3-year $22 million contract with an average annual salary of $7.33 million. Kirkpatrick should receive quite a bit more than that, especially because at the time of signing, Jones was 32 and Kirkpatrick will be just 27-years-old (turning 28 in October).

Do you think a contract in the range of five years for $40-50 million is realistic and worthy for what Kirkpatrick brings to the Bengals?