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Pro Football Focus shows Bengals CB Eli Apple had breakout season

The Eli Apple haters may want to avert their eyes for this one.

AFC Divisional Playoffs - Cincinnati Bengals v Tennessee Titans Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Cornerback Eli Apple is currently scheduled to hit free agency if he and the Cincinnati Bengals don’t come to an agreement before then.

Apple was one of those players you love to have on your team, but other teams fans love to hate.

However, many fans of opponents have reveled in him getting beat for what ended up being the game-winning touchdown. That is ignoring how great his 2021 season was for the Bengals.

Apple had a number of plays where he completely changed games for Cincinnati. He was the one who popped up the pass against the Tennessee Titans at the end of the game for linebacker Logan Wilson to pick off. That led to Evan McPherson sending the team to the AFC Championship.

The veteran DB then made the stop against Tyreek Hill on the goal line before halftime against the Kansas City Chiefs that prevented them scoring any points to extend their lead.

The thing is, Apple let these fanbases and teams like the Baltimore Ravens know it when this underrated defense stopped opposing offenses. One of the more outrageous ones was getting a Super Bowl ticket for Hill after the Chiefs’ wide receiver wasn’t happy after the loss. It really reminds this writer of how Chad Johnson was in his prime.

Doing those sorts of things does put a target on your back as a player, but it seems like Apple has been prepared to carry that burden in the name of being able to talk trash.

This stat also shows how fortunate the Bengals were to have Apple as a depth player for just $1.2 million behind Trae Waynes who never seemed to get healthy enough to live up to his big contract. It seems like a forgone conclusion that Waynes will be cut for a significant bump in cap space.

What we don’t know yet is whether Apple will be back.

Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo worked with Apple when they both were part of the New York Giants. The cornerback was a first round pick for the Giants, but he never quite lived up to that billing. He then made his way to the New Orleans Saints where he played with Vonn Bell and Trey Hendrickson.

Apple followed that pipeline to Cincinnati where it seems like he has found a role that works for his skillset. The Bengals do love their former first round defensive backs, after all.

It seems likely that both sides will come to an agreement with a raise for the veteran corner given the success both had with each other. It isn’t out of the question that Apple goes elsewhere is another team offers a significant pay bump. Free agency does bring a few surprises.

Hopefully, we see Apple back in stripes next season with a repeat effort.