With plenty of salary-cap space at hand, the Bengals struck before the beginning of the regular season to keep three core players — CB Leon Hall, OLT Andrew Whitworth and C Kyle Cook — in the fold for the next several years, signing each to a new contract through 2015.
The re-signings follow a blueprint Cincinnati has followed over the years. The Bengals have been chided for their unwillingness to spend at times, but they have been willing to re-sign their top players to contract extensions. Perhaps most notably, they moved aggressively to sign QB Carson Palmer to a new deal through 2014 late in the '05 season — just his second as a starter, and when Palmer had three years remaining on his rookie deal. Also notable: The Bengals signed WR Chad Ochocinco to two lucrative contract extensions during his tenure.
On the wrong side of the ledger, the Bengals have made some fairly expensive missteps when adding free agents from other clubs in free agency, such as the signings of WRs Antonio Bryant and Laveranues Coles. Also, losing CB Johnathan Joseph to Houston in July was a case of the Bengals not being able to retain a talented player in his prime. However, the Bengals did move decisively to keep Hall, their top cornerback and a player who figured to draw significant interest in free agency once his original contract expired after this season. Hall will receive $19.137 million by next March, his agent, Doug Hendrickson, told PFW, and the contract pays him $21.5 million total through 2012.
Hendrickson said it took an "elite-level" contract for Hall not to test free agency after the season.
"They came out really strong right away," Hendrickson said of the Bengals' commitment to striking a deal.
Another factor that worked toward an agreement: Hall likes Cincinnati, Hendrickson said. Cook, slated to receive $14 million in new money in his four-year deal, according to agent Alan Herman, badly wanted to stay with the Bengals and OL coach Paul Alexander and passed on a chance to try free agency after the season.
"He's happy to extend his time in Cincinnati," Herman said.
Cook and Whitworth, who played very well last season, bring stability to a line with the potential to improve but still a work in progress. Hall, for his part, has started 56 consecutive games.