This is a business decision, as the Bengals are saving money in the running backs room. The Bengals were first in the NFL in cap space going to running backs, which is a position that many deem to be less valuable than others.
By cutting Bernard, the Bengals are saving $4.1 million in cap space. The Bengals recently re-signed Samaje Perine to two-year, $3.3 million deal. This means in 2021, the Bengals will save about $2 million in cap space for their RB2.
According to NFL Network reporter Mike Garafolo, the Bengals actually asked Bernard to take a pay cut, at which point he asked the team to just go ahead and release him into free agency.
Gio Bernard asked for his release and the #Bengals granted it, source says. The team had asked him to take a pay cut two weeks into free agency, which hurt his chances of landing elsewhere. But he's expected to find a new gig soon.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) April 7, 2021
This move makes sense if the Bengals are preparing to spend that money on someone else. After all, they still have over $19 million in cap space, so they are not in desperate need of cash. However, Paul Dehner Jr. reported that this is not an indication that more moves are coming.
This move indicates a pattern the Bengals are developing, starting with Andy Dalton last offseason. The Bengals put a veteran player on the trading block, turned down every offer, then waited until the player asked for a release late in free agency to make a move.
Bernard will be a ninth-year player in 2021 as a 29-year-old. Most running backs don’t make it that long in their careers, but since Bernard was RB2 for most of his career, he doesn’t have the wear and tear many rushers have. Perhaps the Bengals wanted to make the running back room younger, with Perine and Trayveon Williams to back up Joe Mixon.
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