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Gio Bernard's new contract should bode well for Lions' Theo Riddick

As a pass-catching running back, Theo Riddick is one of the best in the league and could cash in on a contract extension or in free agency. AP Photo/Jeff Haynes

Theo Riddick is not much of a between-the-tackles runner. In his three years with the Detroit Lions, he has only one run for over 10 yards -- a 16-yarder last season.

As a pass-catcher, though, he’s one of the best the NFL has.

Due to that, Riddick might have become a very rich man on Wednesday, and it had nothing to do with a potential contract extension of his own. The Cincinnati Bengals signed Giovani Bernard to a three-year, $15.5 million extension, according to ESPN Insider Adam Schefter, and in doing so, it set a market for what Riddick could end up making either in his own extension or if he hits free agency next year.

Bernard is a more balanced back than Riddick, having rushed for more than 650 yards every season he has been in the league, and has shown more explosion as a runner. But Bernard also has pass-catching value, grabbing over 40 receptions in each season of his first three seasons.

That’s where Riddick is dynamic. After seeing somewhat minimal work his first two seasons in the NFL, Riddick became a fail-safe for quarterback Matthew Stafford last season. He caught 80 passes for 697 yards and three touchdowns -- the receptions and yards both setting Lions records for running backs.

Riddick also showed increased capabilities running with more opportunity last season, gaining 133 yards (and 3.1 yards a carry) behind an offensive line that struggled so much it needed to be rebuilt this offseason.

Riddick’s performance over the past 24 games is what could give him a lucrative payday at some point in the near future. It helps too that Riddick just turned 25. Between his age and the fact he hasn’t taken too many hits either in the NFL or in college, where he bounced between receiver and running back, he could have a bit more durability than other backs his age.

And signing him to a long-term deal would be different than the last back the Lions gave an extension to -- Joique Bell. Detroit knew going into that three-year extension that Bell would turn 30 entering the final season of the deal; but the Lions released Bell this offseason.

But Riddick will be in his 20s throughout the length of almost any deal Detroit would likely offer, so there is more value there.

He might not receive the same money as Bernard -- again, that’s where the dual-threat portion of Bernard’s game comes in -- but Riddick and his agents have a baseline to try to negotiate off of now, and that can only help him when he talks with Lions general manager Bob Quinn.

And that’s critical for the former sixth-round pick as he tries to earn a contract that will set up his future.

It’s a deal the Lions should try to get done, as well. Riddick won’t necessarily be the first priority when it comes to extensions for the 2013 draft class -- that will likely be cornerback Darius Slay, followed by (pick your guy) Sam Martin, Devin Taylor, Larry Warford and Riddick. Ezekiel Ansah would be the No. 1 priority, but in picking up the fifth-year option on his contract, the Lions don't have to worry about that deal for some time.

But signing Riddick could and should get done at some point because of Riddick’s skill set and fit in the Detroit offense, where he has turned into one of the most productive pass-catching backs in the NFL.