Coming into 2017, Darqueze Dennard didn’t have much starting experience after three years in a deep Bengals secondary. But the team saw enough in limited snaps to lock in Dennard through this season with his fifth-year option.
The move ended up paying off as Dennard had one of his best seasons as a pro. He had an 82.8 grade at Pro Football Focus, which made him the 32nd ranked cornerback in the NFL last season, and was Bleacher Report’s NFL1000’s ninth best slot defender.
His breakout year in the Bengals nickel personnel has solidified him as the undisputed starter at a position that grows more significant year after year. But what are the chances he will be with the team beyond this upcoming season?
Weight: 205 pounds
College: Michigan State
Hometown: Dry Branch, GA
Experience: Fifth-year player
Playing under his fifth-year option, Dennard is in the final year of his rookie deal. He is set to make roughly $8.5 million this season, which is the same number that counts against the cap for 2018.
The Bengals may explore the idea of extending Dennard’s contract in the coming days before the season begins, or wait until the offseason to re-sign him before free agency. If he hits the open market, it’s questionable if they will be willing to match the kind of money Dennard should be able to garner from other teams. The main reason being they already payed Kirkpatrick, and Jackson will be due for a contract at some point as well.
Dennard was the 24th overall selection in the 2014 draft. He didn’t see very much playing time early in his career though, but was afforded the opportunity to play behind some very talented and well traveled veteran players in his early years.
He saw his first real bump in playing time during the 2016 season when he played a little more than 30 percent of the defensive snaps. In 2017, Dennard got all the time he could handle, taking around 78 percent of the defensive snaps last year, which was second on the team and most among the cornerbacks.
Dennard proved he could be productive as a starter. He recorded 85 combined tackles, two sacks and two interceptions, and returned one of those interceptions for a touchdown in Week 17 against the Ravens.
The reality is that Dennard will make the roster pretty easily. However, the team has done a pretty good job of showing that they are preparing for life without him. They drafted Davontae Harris and Darius Phillips in this years draft. The team has also talked about how much they like rookie safety Jessie Bates’ ability to cover receivers in the slot as well. There is a microscopic chance that if one of the rookies plays well enough that the Bengals are comfortable playing them that the team could trade Dennard, but that is very unlikely.
Dennard proved last season he is a very capable of being a slot corner for an NFL team, which has become a very valuable position in this pass-happy league. Bengals’fans should enjoy Dennard this season, because there is a decent chance he will be somewhere else in 2019.
Roster Odds: 90 percent.