Bengals sign first-round pick Dennard

CINCINNATI -- The Bengals completed the signing of their rookie class Thursday when first-round pick cornerback Darqueze Dennard officially inked his first NFL deal.

The team's other seven draft picks all signed last month.

Per the rookie wage scale that was part of the latest collective bargaining agreement, Dennard is slotted to have a cap value just under $8 million across the four years of the contract. As the draft's 24th overall pick, he commands a slotted cap value of $1.45 million for the 2014 season. He's also expected to receive a signing bonus of about $4.1 million across the life of the deal. No official terms of his deal have been released. We'll update when they are.

With Dennard's contract now in, the Bengals officially have 90 contracts on the books as they close down mandatory minicamp and head back into one final week of voluntary organized team activities. Cincinnati held its last minicamp practice Thursday morning. It has three OTA sessions next week before breaking for the summer.

"Of course it's great to have all this done well before we come back for training camp," coach Marvin Lewis said in a statement. "He's been everything we hoped he would be to this point. He's a great talent. He played in a big-time pressure defense at Michigan State and he's not afraid to be out there [in coverage] by himself. And as we knew he would, he conducts himself every day as a mature pro who wants to get better every day."

Dennard last spoke to media Wednesday, holding court for several minutes as he discussed his role in the team's deep secondary. He also addressed the fact that nearly a month to the day he was still without a deal.

"The deal? No, I don't think about that. It will happen," he said. "I'm not really worried about it. I'm just worried about me doing whatever it takes to help the team win."

For now that role remains somewhat uncertain. The Bengals have a bevy of veteran cornerbacks ahead of Dennard on the depth chart. Veterans Terence Newman, Adam Jones and Leon Hall will be part of the primary starting rotation at the position. Third-year player Dre Kirkpatrick also is expected to get his share of playing time. That seems to leave, barring significant injuries, few windows of opportunity for Dennard to play regularly.

During minicamp, Dennard was lined up both at the left and right cornerback positions as well as in the slot. You can read a little more about what he had to say about his adjustments in this column from Wednesday evening.

Still, none of that is to say that starting him is completely out of the question.

"Starting a rookie at corner, it depends on the person," co-defensive backs coach Vance Joseph said. "Darqueze is a very mature person. He's an achiever also. From high school to college, he's been a winner. His personality, his skill set, I would feel fine starting him. But he's got to earn it. We've got Leon Hall here. We've got Terence Newman. We've got Adam Jones. We've got Dre Kirkpatrick. He's got to earn it."

A native of Dry Branch, Georgia, Dennard received his only scholarship offer -- to Michigan State -- the night of his final regular-season high school football game. He went on to become a USA Today first-team All-America selection at Michigan State, and win the Thorpe Award, the honor given to college football's best defensive back.

If Dennard's actual deal mimics what he's slotted to make, the Bengals will have paid about $5 million to their draft picks, meaning their cap space will go from its current $24 million down to $19 million.