Darqueze Dennard

Latest On Darqueze Dennard

Bengals CB Darqueze Dennard will play out the 2018 season under the fifth-year option of his rookie deal, so he will be eligible for unrestricted free agency next offseason. After an underwhelming and injury-plagued first three years in the league, the Michigan State product turned in a strong 2017, mostly as a slot corner, and he has set himself up for a nice payday if he replicates that performance in 2018 (which would also make for a difficult business decision for Cincinnati).

As Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes, the Bengals have proven that they are willing to pay when it comes to cover corners. And Dennard believes he can not only be a good slot corner, but that he can handle opposing receivers outside the numbers as well, which he showed flashes of last season. The team has previously indicated that it would be open to extending Dennard, despite the investments it has already made in fellow corners Dre Kirkpatrick and William Jackson III, but Dennard himself is not sure if he’s ready for that conversation just yet.

He said, “That’s something that I think me and my agent and my family will have to sit down and talk about. But I mean, when that time come, the time come. I’m not pressed on it. I’ve got some goals that I have personally that I gotta work on, on the football field.”

He then suggested that he may be interested in testing the open market, as he smiled and added, “You know how defensive backs is anyway – we like to gamble. So I’m not too much sure how I feel any way about it.”

In any event, Dennard is slated to earn $8.526MM in 2018, which actually makes him the 21st-highest paid CB in the game. He will look to build on a 2017 campaign that saw him post career highs in forced fumbles (one), interceptions (two), sacks (two), passes defensed (six), solo (61) and total tackles (85).

In other Bengals news, Owczarski reports that the team has shown interest in supplemental draft prospects Sam Beal and Adonis Alexander, both of whom are cornerbacks who could theoretically replace Dennard in 2019.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Rumors: Bengals, Lamar, Lions, Bears

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson met with the Bengals on Monday, according to Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer. While the Bengals haven’t attempted to upgrade on incumbent signal-caller Andy Dalton in recent years, Jackson could potentially be available when the club picks at No. 21 in the first round. But as Dehner notes, Cincinnati might also be planning for other outcomes, such as a Jackson draft-day fall or a trade with another team. It’s conceivably the Bengals simply want to appear interested in quarterback prospects in an effort to goad a club into moving up. Currently, Cincinnati has free agent Matt Barkley and Jeff Driskel behind Dalton on its depth chart.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two North divisions:

  • The Lions have hosted Boston College edge rusher Harold Landry, reports Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). Detroit has added several interior defensive lineman so far this offseason, but the team has yet to address its pass-rushing need. Landry could help in that regard, but there’s no guarantee he’ll still be on the board at pick No. 20. For what it’s worth, Landry played under now-Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni at BC. Landry, who posted 48 sacks during his collegiate career, would not only give Detroit immediate help on the edge, but allow the Lions to hedge against a potential 2019 loss of franchise-tagged defensive end Ezekiel Ansah.
  • Darqueze Dennard finally lived up to his first-round billing in 2017, and the Bengals are now open to extending his contract, as Dehner writes in a separate piece. Under contract for one more season thanks to his fifth-year option, Dennard will earn $8.526MM in 2018 before hitting free agency next spring. The No. 24 overall selection in the 2014 draft, Dennard played 899 defensive snaps a season ago (nearly triple his previous career-high) and graded as the NFL’s 30th-best corner, per Pro Football Focus. Cincinnati is already heavily extended at cornerback, as it re-signed Dre Kirkpatrick and draft William Jackson III in 2016, but the club has always been willing to pay for secondary help.
  • The Bears will work out veteran defensive back Tharold Simon at their minicamp this week, tweets Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Simon, 27, didn’t see the field last season after inking a futures deal with the Redskins, as he was cut in May. A subsequent tryout with the Saints didn’t result in a contract, and Simon never generated any other known interest. However, Simon was a key contributor for the Seahawks in 2014, and as Bigg notes, has the type of size 6’2″, 200 pounds) that Chicago defensive coordinator Vic Fangio covets. Wide receiver Marlon Brown and linebacker Ryan Delaire, each of whom boasts NFL experience, are also auditioning for the Bears, per Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times (Twitter link).

Bengals Pick Up Darqueze Dennard’s Fifth-Year Option

The Bengals are exercising cornerback Darqueze Dennard‘s fifth-year option for 2018, reports Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer (on Twitter).

Darqueze Dennard (Vertical)

As the 24th pick in the 2014 draft, Dennard is now in position to earn upward of $8.5MM in 2018, which seems rich considering his output to this point. The 25-year-old hasn’t been a starter in Cincinnati, having come off the bench in 35 of 39 regular-season appearances, and has only intercepted one pass during his career. Moreover, Dennard participated in just 30.7 percent of the Bengals’ defensive snaps last season and ranked a below-average 87th in overall performance among Pro Football Focus’ 111 qualified corners.

While Dennard’s option for 2018 is guaranteed for injury only, he joins Dre Kirkpatrick, William Jackson and Adam Jones as prominent Cincinnati CBs who are controllable for at least the next two seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bengals Activate Cedric Ogbuehi; Dennard To IR

The Bengals have announced a change to their 53-man roster, tweeting today that they’ve activated rookie offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi from their non-football injury list. To make room for Ogbuehi, the team placed cornerback Darqueze Dennard on injured reserve.

Dennard, 24, was the Bengals’ first-round pick in 2014, though he was only serving as the team’s fourth cornerback this season. We heard earlier this week that Dennard will require shoulder surgery, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com explains today (via Twitter) that while the corner’s labrum is intact, the ligaments and capsule around his shoulder have structural damage that needs to be repaired. He’s expected to make a full recovery for 2016.

With Dennard on IR, the Bengals will continue to lean on Adam Jones, Leon Hall, and Dre Kirkpatrick. However, Jones is injured and Kirkpatrick has been shaky this season, so Chris Lewis-Harris and Josh Shaw may see increased roles in the coming weeks. It’s the first time the team’s depth will really be tested this season, as Dennard becomes the first Bengal from the 53-man roster to land on the injured reserve list in 2015.

As for Ogbuehi, he was one of two tackles the Bengals selected early in the 2015 draft, along with Jake Fisher. Coming off a torn ACL, Ogbuehi started the season on the NFI list, but should be available for the team down the stretch. Still, while Ogbuehi and Fisher are likely the tackles of the future in Cincinnati, veterans Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith remain the starters for now.

AFC Notes: Osweiler, Manning, Dennard, Hoyer

After picking up a victory in his first career start on Sunday, Brock Osweiler will face a tougher test in Week 12. As first reported by Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com (Twitter link) and since confirmed by head coach Gary Kubiak, Osweiler will make another start for the Broncos next Sunday against the undefeated Patriots.

While Osweiler prepares to start a second consecutive game, Peyton Manning is in Charlotte, getting a second opinion on his foot injury, tweets Mike Klis of 9News. Multiple reports on Sunday suggested that the future Hall-of-Famer is considering playing one more season, assuming he can get healthy, but Kubiak denied those rumors, suggesting today that Manning is focused solely on his recovery, rather than on 2016 (Twitter link via Troy Renck of the Denver Post).

Let’s check in on some other items from across the AFC….

  • The Bengals‘ fears on cornerback Darqueze Dennard were confirmed by an MRI today, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, who tweets that Dennard requires shoulder surgery and will be out for the rest of the season. Cincinnati should be able to overcome losing the 2014 first-rounder, since he was only serving as the club’s No. 4 corner in recent weeks.
  • Schefter also passes along the latest on the Texans‘ quarterback situation, with head coach Bill O’Brien announcing on ESPN’s NFL Insiders that Brian Hoyer will return to action in Week 12 (Twitter link). That may spell the end of Brandon Weeden‘s time in Houston, unless the team moves forward with three quarterbacks on its roster.
  • In the wake of Quinton Coples‘ release, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News tweets that it was “well known around the league” that the Jets had the linebacker on the trade block for most of 2015. Obviously, there were no takers prior to the deadline, which doesn’t bode particularly well for Coples’ odds of being claimed on waivers. Meanwhile, head coach Todd Bowles hinted today that he has a player – possibly a kick returner – in mind for Coples’ old roster spot (Twitter link via Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com).
  • It wasn’t that long ago that it seemed like Colts head coach Chuck Pagano could be fired any day. While he’s still no lock to keep his job beyond the 2015 season, Pagano has his team believing in him, as Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star details.

AFC North Notes: Ravens, Dennard, Vick

With Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco out for the rest of the 2015 season due to an ACL injury, veteran backup Matt Schaub will get an opportunity to add an extra $1MM to his season’s earnings. As Joel Corry of CBSSports.com explains (via Twitter), Schaub’s deal includes a $500K incentive for playing 5% of Baltimore’s offensive snaps, and another $500K if he reaches 10%. With six games still left on the schedule, Schaub should have no trouble hitting those benchmarks unless he suffers an injury of his own.

Here’s more on the Ravens and a couple of their AFC North rivals:

  • In the view of Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com, losing Flacco makes the Ravens the favorite to land the first overall pick for the 2016 draft. Currently, Baltimore is 3-7, a game ahead of the Browns, Titans, and Chargers, who have two wins apiece, so I’m not sure I’d call the Ravens the frontrunner for that first overall pick. Still, it certainly looks like the team is on track for its highest selection since 2000, when Jamal Lewis went fifth overall. The Ravens have never had a top-three pick.
  • The Bengals are fearing the worst for second-year cornerback Darqueze Dennard, who was injured in Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. According to Rapoport, Dennard dislocated his shoulder, and will undergo an MRI today to see if he suffered a tear as well. There’s a chance he’ll land on the injured reserve list later this week.
  • Steelers quarterback Michael Vick said today that he’d like to play for another season, and wouldn’t mind returning to Pittsburgh in 2016, even if Landry Jones is the No. 2 quarterback heading into the summer (Twitter link via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). In previous offseason, Vick has prioritized an opportunity at a starting job, so this would be a much different approach to free agency for him.

Bengals Sign Darqueze Dennard

The Bengals have finished signing their 2014 draft picks, announcing today that first-round cornerback Darqueze Dennard has signed his rookie contract with the club (Twitter link). On the heels of Mike Evanssigning with the Bucs earlier today, Dennard becomes the 22nd first-rounder to put pen to paper, meaning there are just 10 still unsigned.

Dennard, 22, was a unanimous All-American selection during his final year at Michigan State, earning All Big-Ten honors and also collecting the Jim Thorpe Award as the top defensive back in college football. Cincinnati nabbed him last month with the 24th overall pick in the draft, making him the third cornerback to come off the board, behind Justin Gilbert and Kyle Fuller.

As the No. 24 pick, Dennard is in line for a signing bonus worth a little over $4.12MM, according to Jason Fitzgerald’s figures at OverTheCap.com. The total value of Dennard’s four-year contract, which also includes a team option for year five, falls just short of $8MM.

Be sure to check out our tracker to see which draft picks still have yet to sign their contracts.

AFC North Notes: Browns, Shazier, Dennard

Although there was some speculation that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam may have had a hand in the club’s decision to trade up for Johnny Manziel, GM Ray Farmer says that “at no point in the draft did Jimmy try to influence the decisions that were made” (Twitter link via Lindsay Jones of USA Today). Meanwhile, head coach Mike Pettine says Manziel won’t simply be handed the starting job, and that he’ll compete with Brian Hoyer, per Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (via Twitter).

  • Ryan Shazier, drafted 15th overall by the Steelers, “has no holes” according to head coach Mike Tomlin, who was quoted by Ed Bouchette in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  • In an additional blog post, Bouchette defended the selection: “Shazier is exactly the kind of player Chuck Noll told Art Rooney Jr. he needed when the Steelers hired him to coach them in 1969 – great athletes with great production. That’s what Shazier has. . .He also has the kind of speed where you could line him up with some of the fastest wide receivers and cornerbacks and he would beat most of them to the tape.”
  • Sitting at No. 46 in the second round, the Steelers could benefit from an expected run of offensive linemen, says ESPN’s Scott Brown, who lists ten prospects who could be on the Steelers radar, four of which are echoed by Bouchette: Penn State WR Allen Robinson, Indiana WR Cody Latimer, Notre Dame defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt and Minnesota defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman.
  • Also buried in Bouchette’s post were a few tidbits: Shazier is an obvious upgrade over Vince Williams, especially when it comes to speed and range; Shazier might have been preferred over CJ Mosley, in part, because of durability; and anything the team gets out of Sean Spence will be a bonus, as they are “not counting on him at all.”
  • Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome was looking for a “bonanza” to move off the 17th pick, which he used to select Mosley, whose combination of outstanding tape and special intangibles impressed team brass. The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec quotes assistant GM Eric DeCosta, who raved about Mosley: “He’s fast, instinctive, tough, smart, talented, a playmaker. People always ask about the best available player and what that means. He was the best available player on our board and he would have been the best available player on our board at 10. He’s a great football player.”
  • As they did with Alabama product Dre Kirkpatrick two years ago, the Bengals won’t ask Darqueze Dennard to start in his first year, writes Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Mailbags & More: Cowboys, Lions, Rams, Jets

Let’s have a look at some mailbags and related links to kick off this Sunday morning:

  • The Cowboys will have some contractual decisions to make regarding a few of their top offensive weapons, writes ESPNDallas.com’s Todd Archer in his latest mailbag. Although they have picked up the fifth-year option on Tyron Smith, thereby locking him up through 2015, they still would like to get a long-term deal done. Extension talks could take place this summer.
  • As for Dez Bryant, who is entering the final year of his contract, the Cowboys want him to stay and Bryant does not want to leave, so Archer predicts that something will get done. However, he does think that a lot of the money in any potential deal will be in the base salaries, which would give Dallas some protection. And although DeMarco Murray has been terrific, the market for running backs has stagnated and the Cowboys would be wise to approach him with a modest deal now to see if he would bite.
  • Finally, Archer believes that if the Cowboys are unable to land Zack Martin or another top tackle in the draft, they will try to extend Doug Free. If they do manage to snag a highly-rated tackle, they will be willing to set Free free.
  • ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein investigates the possibilities of the Lions‘ trading back from their No. 10 overall pick and the possibility of an Ndamukong Suh trade.
  • Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press is going all out in his pre-draft coverage of the Lions this week, taking a look at Detroit’s options at defensive back, the most likely candidates for the team’s first round pick, and he puts up another mock draft.
  • Chris McCosky of The Detroit News makes a case for the Lions to draft Zack Martin with their first-round choice.
  • Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com had a two-hour chat with fans on Friday regarding the most important draft-related topics facing the Rams.
  • Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains why Clemson WR Sammy Watkins would be an intriguing fit for the Rams.
  • Seth Walder of the New York Daily News looks at three players the Jets could target in the first-round: Odell Beckham, Jr., Brandin Cooks, and Darqueze Dennard.
  • Kimberly A. Smith of Newsday examines the importance of this draft for Jets GM John Idzik, who has 12 picks to work with and a healthy salary cap situation.
  • Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com looks at Rex Ryan’s influence in the Jets‘ draft room, the possibility they may trade up in the draft, and several other draft-related issues.

Draft Notes: Jets, Patriots, Donald, Savage

A few notes as we get ever closer to the 2014 NFL Draft:

  • A trio of receivers will meet with the Jets in the upcoming days, tweets Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. The team will meet with Marqise Lee today and Monday, Odell Beckham on Monday and Tuesday, and Brandin Cooks later in the week.
  • Also in the market for defensive backfield help, the Jets will meet with two cornerbacks (according to Mehta on Twitter): Jason Verrett tomorrow and Darqueze Dennard on Friday.
  • The Patriots worked out Northern Arizona cornerback Anders Battle in early March, reports Zuri Berry of Boston.com. Battle, who has now earned his first mention in the pages of PFR, accrued 57 tackles and two interceptions last season, and reportedly ran a 4.57 40-yard-dash at his Pro Day.
  • Two Pittsburgh Panthers have turned down invitations to the draft proceedings at Radio City Music Hall. Jerry DiPaola of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that defensive tackle Aaron Donald rejected the offer due to personal reasons, while the Pitt Football Twitter account noted that quarterback Tom Savage turned down the invitation (without citing a reason). I would guess that Savage realizes he likely will not be a first-round pick and does not want to become a spectacle for the cameras.