The Bengals have picked up a pair of fifth-year options, according to Albert Breer of the NFL Network (Twitter link), who reports that cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler both had their 2016 options exercised by the team.
Of the Bengals’ two 2012 first-rounders, Zeitler has been the more productive contributor during his first three years in the NFL. Though he has been slowed by injuries the last two seasons, Zeitler has established himself as the club’s right guard, starting 41 games there since 2012. Despite the fact that he played just 12 games in 2014, only eight guards – including four right guards – ranked higher than Zeitler, according to Pro Football Focus’ grades (subscription required).
Kirkpatrick, on the other hand, played just 248 defensive snaps for Cincinnati last season, fourth among Bengals cornerbacks. However, with Terence Newman now playing for the Vikings, there may be a greater opportunity for the former 17th overall pick to see the field in 2015. In spite of his limited playing time, Kirkpatrick has grabbed six interceptions over the last two seasons.
We heard last week that the Bengals were making it a priority to work out contract extensions with Kirkpatrick and Zeitler, so the fifth-year options for 2016 may end up just being placeholders. For now, Kirkpatrick is slated to earn $7.507MM in ’16, while Zeitler would earn $8.07MM. Those salaries are guaranteed for injury only until next March.