The Bengals exercised their option early on Dre Kirkpatrick.
As expected the Bengals didn't designate a franchise free agent for the second straight year on Tuesday, but their foray into 2016 free agency actually began nearly a year ago when they exercised their fifth-year options on cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and right guard Kevin Zeitler.
They're expected to make the same call on 2013 first-rounder Tyler Eifert this May.
The Bengals could have pulled the options before free agency begins Monday, but they've repeatedly indicated they'll stick with the one-year deals so they can have them under contract for 2016 while trying to reach long-term contracts for both Kirkpatrick and Zeitler.
The option year for Kirkpatrick, the 17th pick, and Zeitler, the 27th pick, is about $8 million for each. That puts the Bengals on course for another big-spending season after they finished in the NFL's top ten of spending under the salary cap in 2015, according to various sources.
Historically they've eyed those extensions closer to training camp. Now their focus is on players hitting free agency next week, a crop that includes 11 starters and regulars like cornerback Adam Jones.
Jones said last month at his first Pro Bowl that he wanted to return to Cincinnati and he reiterated that Tuesday as he expounded on his workout regimen he continues to execute at Paul Brown Stadium. Head coach Marvin Lewis has said the feeling is mutual.
Jones' agent, Peter Schaffer, had dinner with Bengals vice president Paul Brown last week in Indianapolis during the NFL scouting combine that can be described as an opening salvo. Along with Lewis and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, Schaffer is a major player in Jones' rise from out of the league in 2009 to Pro Bowler.
"My first choice is coming back," said Jones, who used that shot to revive his career in Cincinnati with six solid seasons of annual growth. "We'll see how it goes. Peter is the man. I have to approve everything, but Peter is the man."
Jones says he's also on good terms with Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown in their on-again, off-again Twitter war. "I don't think he has any problem with me,' said Jones, and the two plan to hook up in Brown's hometown of Miami, where Jones has a couple of favorite golf courses.
"He's not there yet. He's still in Los Angeles," Jones said.
Meanwhile, Jones has been at PBS grinding away. On Mondays he does leg work. On Tuesdays he works his upper body (shoulders, triceps, biceps) and core, complete with 500 sit-ups. He'll take off Wednesdays and Thursdays and go back at it Friday with leg work on the stationary bike or 100-yard striders.
"I don't want to be in tip-top shape. I just want to stay where I am. I'm going to gear it up with the off-season program,' said Jones of the team regimen that begins April 18. "I don't want to do too much or else I'll be burned out by the time the season gets here."
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