On Thursday afternoon, in the midst of the opening day of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the Bengals advanced their top slot corner to the next round.
The Bengals reached a one-year deal with Darqueze Dennard.
This makes things interesting in the CB unit. The Bengals also signed slot corner B.W. Webb last week, so the room is getting more crowded.
With William Jackson proving himself to be the best CB on the team, this makes us wonder who will start across from him.
Could it be Dennard? What should the Bengals do with incumbent Dre Kirkpatrick? What should the Bengals do with him?
The short answer is, he’s getting paid too much to do anything but start. He doesn’t play like it often, but he’s getting paid like the NFL’s top CBs. His average salary is higher than that of Aqib Talib and Richard Sherman. As the 13-highest paid CB in the NFL, he’s starting for the Bengals as long as he’s under contract.
But what if he wasn’t under contract?
According to Sportrac.com, the Bengals could cut Kirkpatrick this season for only $4.2 million. This move would save them $5.353 million in salary and bonuses this season, plus the additional $9.85 million they would be paying him in 2020 and 2021.
Kirkpatrick’s cap hit this season will be $10,953,125 in 2019 and $11,250,000 in 2020 and 2021. His dead cap steadily decreases from $4.2 million to $2.8 million to $1.4 million, so the Bengals could easily cut him any time during the next three years.
The Bengals will also need to negotiate a new deal for Jackson, whose current contract will expire next offseason. So trimming the fat off of Kirkpatrick’s deal could help make some more room for the CB who is clearly the best in the organization.
The Bengals could trade him, but they wouldn’t get nearly the same level pick that used to draft him. Then again, trading him for a 3rd round pick (which is overly optimistic, they would probably only get something lower) would be better than cutting him for nothing in return.
But if the Bengals follow their standard procedure, they will let Kirkpatrick play out his contract, let him walk, and collect the compensatory pick.
So the Bengals could trade him or cut him (which would be more likely), but should they?
Not right away.
While Kirkpatrick surely doesn’t play to the level he is paid, he is still the second-best boundary on the Bengals roster. Parting ways with Kirkpatrick would only work if they acquired a CB with similar talent and payed him less than they’re currently paying Kirkpatrick.
It would make sense to get rid of Kirkpatrick, but then the Bengals would have to follow up with other moves to replace him. Dennard could move to the boundary, but he is better suited as a slot corner. His replacement in the slot would be B.W. Webb, who has been wildly inconsistent over the course of his career.
Or, the Bengals could put KeiVarae Russell or Tony McRae on the boundary, but they have been primarily special teams players. Their sample size at CB is small, but they don’t stand out as Opening Day starters for next season.
The Bengals should keep Kirkpatrick for at least one more season, since they seem to have no intention of signing a CB and there are few stand-out CBs in the draft. After that, the Bengals should look at the type of CBs that are available via free agency for the draft, and weigh their options from there.
As far as this year is concerned, the Bengals could conceivably move on from Kirkpatrick, but they probably won’t. The Dennard signing doesn’t represent any threat to Kirkpatrick’s employment status.