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NFL free agency: Bengals prioritizing Dre Kirkpatrick

Keeping Kirkpatrick is among the Bengals’ biggest priorities this week.

As NFL free agency officially opens Thursday at 4:00 p.m. ET, the Bengals are working to keep as many of their best free agents as possible.

At or near the top of their list of guys to get re-signed is Dre Kirkpatrick, who has become a quality starting cornerback in a league that doesn’t have enough of them. That’s why others teams are bound to throw big money at Kirkpatrick this offseason, but so too are the Bengals.

According to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, the Bengals are making a strong push to keep Kirkpatrick and pay him handsomely in the process.

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. The Bengals should do their best to make sure that, at the very least, they get a chance to match any offer he receives this offseason

With rookie first round pick William Jackson III missing the entire 2016 season with a pectoral injury, Darqueze Dennard struggling in the 15 games he played, and Adam Jones showing his age and legal issues, the Bengals must get Kirkpatrick re-signed to ensure this position doesn’t become one of weakness next season.

In 15 games played last season (14 games started), Kirkpatrick registered 46 tackles, three interceptions and 10 pass deflections. He finished as Pro Football Focus’ 53rd-ranked corner out of 112 eligible players. The one game in which he played but didn’t start was simply to give Dennard a short-lived chance on the boundary. That lasted for one series.

Kirkpatrick’s stats don’t suggest he should be paid like a top-dollar corner, but again, the NFL doesn’t have enough decent corners to go around, so even an above-average guy like Kirkpatrick comes at a premium. And, sometimes cornerback stats are deceiving. One thing he is great at is go-routes, as PFF ranked him the best cornerback in the nation in that category.

And at age 27 with just two full seasons of being a starter under his belt, there’s reason to believe Kirkpatrick is only going to get better over the course of his next contract, which will probably be four to five years and pay him around $10 million annually.