In 2016, the Bengals signed undrafted free agent Alex Erickson. He went on to lead the AFC in kick return yardage that season.
Right before kickoff last season, the Bengals signed him to a two-year extension. With roster bonuses, workout bonuses, and per game active bonuses, he’ll be making upwards of $1.6 million per year.
According to ESPN, Erickson has the most valuable contract on the Bengals’ books.
Rivers McCown looked at all 32 teams to try to find each team’s best veteran contract. Because the salary cap dictates that each team has to be as frugal as possible, he though that Erickson gave the Bengals the biggest bang for their buck.
Here’s what ESPN said:
Cincinnati Bengals: Alex Erickson, WR
Remaining contract (cap hit, percent of cap): 2019: $1.76 million (0.9%), 2020: $1.86 million (0.9%)
Why his contract is so valuable: Erickson was one of the best kick returners in the NFL last season, has been a high-efficiency underneath target whenever called upon and signed a long-term extension for relative peanuts. He’s the kind of player who was made for a list such as this. Just when we were starting to wonder if he were lost behind Auden Tate, Erickson busted out in a big way with a 137-yard day against the Jaguars in Week 7, catching eight of 14 balls. The Bengals have not exactly hit gold in free agency lately, so there actually weren’t many contenders for this spot. Kerry Wynn is another lineman signed last season who plays a big role on special teams. -- Rivers McCown
What’s next? In 2016, Erickson was the lone undrafted free agent to make the Bengals’ 53-man roster. Although he was a prolific receiver at Wisconsin, that isn’t why he found a home with the Bengals. “When I first made this team, it was primarily as a returner,” Erickson said. “Special teams gave me a shot to develop as a receiver and continue to improve on that.” He did enough in his first two seasons to earn a two-year contract extension worth more than $4 million. Erickson is still the team’s primary punt returner and has seen his role in the passing attack increase. The 6-foot receiver already has 19 catches in 2019, which is one off his career high for a season. -- Ben Baby
When all is said and done, the Bengals’ got a good price for a good punt returner who could blossom into a huge part of the Bengals’ passing attack. With all of the injuries sustained by the receiver group, Erickson was a huge part of why the Bengals even stood a chance with the Jaguars in Week 7.