The Cincinnati Bengals are picking up the fifth-year option on offensive guard Kevin Zeitler and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, according to Will Brinson with CBS Sports and Albert Breer with the NFL Network. Because both players were selected outside of the top-10, their compensation will be the average salary of the top-25 players at their respective position -- excluding the two highest-paid players. As a result, Kirkpatrick will receive $7.5 million guaranteed while Zeitler will get $8 million for the 2016 season.
"These are two guys we want to keep and are glad to keep for a fifth year in 2016, and hopefully beyond that," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "They are not only good players, they are good people and good teammates, part of a winning mix. Kevin has started since the day he walked in this building. For Dre, things didn’t quite bounce his way early on, with injuries and gaining full confidence, but he continued to fight his tail off and we saw the good results this past year. We’re very excited about his future and how he’s attacked the offseason again."
As part of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, the league (finally) took control of rookie contracts (mostly top-10 players), which were spiraling out of control. As the first overall draft pick in the 2010 NFL draft, quarterback Sam Bradford signed a six-year deal worth $78.045 million with $50 million guaranteed. Quarterback Cam Newton, the former first overall draft pick in the 2011 NFL draft, signed a four-year deal worth $22.025 million -- all of which was guaranteed -- after the current CBA was implemented.
In addition to the controlled salary structures for rookies, the CBA also built a fifth-year option into the contracts for all players selected in the first round during (and after) the 2011 NFL draft. Teams can execute this fifth-year option but it comes with a cost; anyone drafted in the top-10 receives compensation similar to that of the transition tag and anyone drafted outside of the top-10 receives the average of the third through 25th highest paid players at that their respective position.
Cincinnati pulled the trigger on A.J. Green last year. Because he was selected fourth overall, he will receive $10.176 million in 2015, the transition tag number for wide receivers this year.