During the 2017 offseason, Dre Kirkpatrick became one of the NFL’s highest-paid cornerbacks after signing a five-year, $52.5 million contract with the Bengals. On Tuesday morning, with two years remaining on that contract, the Bengals decided to release Kirkpatrick, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Kirkpatrick thanked his teammates and the Bengals fan base with a post via Instagram.
“Bengals fans it’s been real,” said Kirkpatrick, who was drafted by the Bengals with the 17th overall pick in the 2012 draft. “I want to thank the city and my teammates. Until we meet again.”
After winning a pair of national championships at Alabama, Kirkpatrick broke into Cincinnati’s starting lineup in 2013, his second NFL season. In 99 regular season games, Kirkpatrick received 67 starts while recording 302 tackles, 10 interceptions, two interceptions returns for touchdowns, and 65 passes defensed. His play helped the Bengals advance to the playoffs four straight years from 2012-15.
Kirkpatrick, 30, became expendable after the Bengals signed former Vikings cornerbacks Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander earlier this offseason.
The Bengals have made good on their promise to be active in free agency. Earlier this month, they signed former Texans defensive tackle D.J. Reader to a four-year, $53 million deal to help strengthen a defensive line that already includes Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. They also came to terms on a three-year, $42 million deal with Waynes, whose play helped the Vikings advance to the second round of the playoffs last season.
The Bengals also signed Alexander, to a one-year deal. Alexander, who primarily plays in the slot, is a much more affordable option than former Bengals CB Darqueze Dennard, who signed a three-year, $13.5 million deal with the Jaguars. The Bengals still have needs at linebacker, but strengthening their defensive line and secondary is a good start.
Cincinnati helped shore up its offensive line (its biggest area of need) by signing Xavier Su’a-Filo, who started 12 games for the Cowboys over the past two seasons. The Bengals need to continue to add pieces to their line and will likely do so during next month’s draft. Cincinnati will also have to add to their tight end position after Tyler Eifert signed a two-year deal with the Jaguars.
The Bengals also placed the franchise tag on A.J. Green, who missed the entire 2019 season with an ankle injury. While keeping Green should make the Bengals’ likely first-round pick Joe Burrow happy, Green openly stated his desire not to be tagged last year, which could lead to some uncomfortable moments between Green and the front office. That being said, keeping Green in the fold gives the Bengals arguably the AFC North’s best receiving corps, a group that also includes Tyler Boyd, John Ross and Auden Tate.
Kirkpatrick now joins former Titans cornerback Logan Ryan as two of the better free agents currently available on the open market.