When it comes to 2019 free agency, all of the Bengals’ focus is on Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap.
However, there’s another big player set to hit the open market next year in Darqueze Dennard. The fifth-year cornerback has had an up-and-down four years in Cincinnati to this point, but he finished 2017 on a high note and should land a big payday with his next contract.
Will it be with the Bengals?
In an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer, Dennard said he’s not focused on his next contract, instead looking ahead to the upcoming NFL season.
“It’s not a thought at all,” Dennard said. “I’m just focused on football and trying to be the best Darqueze Dennard I can be, be the best football player I can be and help the team win. I mean, I’m not too much worried about contracts. That will figure itself out.”
When it comes to working out an extension with the Bengals, Dennard isn’t sure what his future holds.
“I don’t know,” Dennard said. “That’s something that I think me and my agent and my family will have to sit down and talk about. But I mean, when that time come, the time come. I’m not pressed on it. I’ve got some goals that I have personally that I gotta work on, on the football field.”
This past season, Dennard recorded 85 tackles, two sacks, six pass deflections and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a score in Cincinnati’s Week 17 upset at Baltimore.
Pro Football Focus ranked Dennard 32nd out of 121 eligible cornerbacks. That’s a major upgrade compared to Dre Kirkpatrick, who finished 91st. However, Kirkpatrick mainly plays on the boundary, while Dennard can play the slot or boundary.
But with the emergence of William Jackson along with Kirkpatrick already making $11-plus million annually from 2019-21. Jackson is under contract for three more seasons if the Bengals exercise his fifth-year option, so they’ll obviously want to avoid paying Dennard and Kirkpatrick so much that they can’t afford Jackson.
Ideally, the Bengals re-sign Dennard and find a way to get out of Kirkpatrick’s contract before Jackson hits free agency, though that’s probably not going to happen.
That’s why we should expect 2018 to be Dennard’s final year in Cincinnati and be pleasantly surprised if it’s not.