<
>

Bengals pick up Darqueze Dennard's fifth-year option

CINCINNATI -- The Bengals have exercised the fifth-year option on cornerback Darqueze Dennard, the team announced Friday, minutes after the second round of the 2017 NFL draft began.

Dennard, who was selected 24th overall in the first round of the 2014 draft, will now be tied to the Bengals through 2018. The fifth-year option will pay him $8.5 million in the final year of his contract, guaranteed for injury only until the first day of the 2018 league year, at which point it will become fully guaranteed.

He will count $2.5 million against the cap in 2017.

The Bengals had until May 3 to pick up Dennard's fifth-year option. Although the salary doesn't become fully guaranteed until next season, it likely wasn't an automatic decision to pick up the option.

Dennard has not developed into the starter the Bengals envisioned when they drafted him, and has started only four games in three seasons. He was used mostly as a backup in 2016, and the Bengals mostly play him in the slot.

It won't exactly be easy for Dennard to crack the starting lineup in 2017, as Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick return as outside starters and 2016 first-rounder William Jackson III is now healthy and ready to play. He will likely compete with Bene Benwikere and Josh Shaw to play in the slot, depending on how the Bengals utilize Jackson