CINCINNATI -- Nearly a week after the Cincinnati Bengals re-upped running back Giovani Bernard on a three-year extension that will keep him around through the 2019 season, coach Marvin Lewis intimated Tuesday that more extensions could be on the horizon this summer.
"We're glad that he's been signed, and we'll continue to work on some other players between now and the beginning of the season," Lewis said during a pre-minicamp news conference. "Hopefully we get some more done."
Until last Wednesday, when Bernard agreed to the three-year, $15 million extension that includes $5 million of guaranteed money, the Bengals had 17 players who were slated to be unrestricted free agents next March. Another two, H-back Ryan Hewitt and reserve offensive lineman T.J. Johnson, are scheduled to be restricted free agents.
Bernard was among the biggest names on a pending Bengals free agents list that still includes the likes of offensive guard Kevin Zeitler, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, defensive end Margus Hunt, offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth and defensive tackle Domata Peko. Bernard's extension had been anticipated, even if it's uncommon these days for running backs to get such lucrative second contracts, given all the pounding their bodies typically take.
Who might be the next to get an extension? Much of that depends upon which player the Bengals can entice the quickest to a fair deal.
Kirkpatrick and Zeitler seem like the most logical possibilities, given their status as starters on the rise. Zeitler has been anchoring the right guard position since he was drafted in 2012. Kirkpatrick worked his way into the starting rotation last fall after three years of playing behind a stable of capable veterans. Both players had their fifth-year options exercised last May, meaning the former first-rounders are under contract through this season.
Whitworth and Peko could be candidates for summertime contracts, too. But neither veteran will probably be signed to very long deals, considering their most recent contracts were for one and two years, respectively. Whitworth will turn 35 during the season, and Peko will turn 32.
Along with extending Bernard, the Bengals last month signed safety Shawn Williams to a four-year extension and exercised tight end Tyler Eifert's fifth-year option. Eifert still could be inked to an extension later this summer, but for the time being his contract isn't as big of a concern since he's under contract for the next two seasons.
Here's an updated list of Bengals veterans slated to hit free agency next spring:
RB Rex Burkhead
WR Brandon Tate
H-back Ryan Hewitt
OL T.J. Johnson
OT Eric Winston
DE Margus Hunt
DT Domata Peko
CB Chykie Brown