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Bengals release Giovani Bernard

The veteran running back requested his release.

New York Giants v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals have released veteran running back Giovani Bernard. The team announced the move Monday morning.

Per NFL Network insider Mike Garafolo, Bernard requested for his release after the club asked him to take a pay cut during the midst of free agency. This aligns with the timing of Tom Pelissero’s report of the Bengals receiving trade calls for Bernard.

Releasing Bernard saves the Bengals $4.1 million in cap space, and drops the Bengals from first to 10th in the NFL in cap spending for running backs.

Bernard, a ninth-year player in 2021, was one of two second-round picks for the Bengals in the 2013 NFL Draft. In 115 career games (30 starts), he ran for 3,697 yards and 22 touchdowns on 921 carries (4.01 yards per carry).

Bernard’s impact transcended more than just as a runner. He hauled in 342 receptions for 2,867 yards and 11 touchdowns through the air. No other running back in franchise history has more receptions. He was also the offense’s best pass-protecting running back for most of his career, which allowed him to stay on the field for third downs more than any other back during his time in Cincinnati.

But more than anything, Bernard is a fan favorite and was one of the most notable leaders the team has rostered in recent years. He earned a captain’s patch for the 2020 season and was one of the most prominent veterans to verbally back head coach Zac Taylor through a tumultuous season last year.

At the end of the day, it became about money, and Bernard didn’t want to take less of it. Nor should he have. The club extended Joe Mixon last year and re-signed Samaje Perine this offseason to a two-year deal. Both moves put Bernard’s 2021 cap hit of about $4.7m into question. The team wanted to keep Bernard for a cheaper price, and when Bernard declined the pay cut, he was released.

It’s always possible that the two sides reunite sometime in the future, but Bernard will have other options now that he’s a free agent and can be signed for a lesser deal. Look for the Miami Dolphins or Tampa Bay Buccaneers to be the frontrunners for the 29-year old’s services.