Dre plays on with Bengals; What's next

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Dre Kirkpatrick: five more years.

The Bengals won their first AFC game of the year Thursday when according to multiple reports they outmuscled the Steelers and Titans to re-sign starting cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick on a five-year deal believed be worth more than $50 million. It's believed he'll be in town Friday to sign and conduct a news conference.

With Adam Jones, the other starting cornerback, possibly facing NFL discipline, inking Kirkpatrick is a huge get. At 27 and heading into his sixth season, he's coming off what is basically his second full year. He shared the team lead interceptions with three and in 978 snaps only allowed two touchdown passes while profootballfocus.com charted the quarterback rating to his targets at just 68.9, 16th best in the NFL.

The agreement with Kirkpatrick capped a day in which the Bengals adhered to their free-agency philosophy to the letter.

Even though right guard Kevin Zeitler, one day after turning a prime-of-career 27, is coming off a solid year ranked sixth for guards by profootballfocus.com in allowing one sack while playing every snap, the Bengals weren't going to change their mantra. Guards don't win enough games to warrant top of the market money, which is why old friend Hue Jackson was able to lure him to Cleveland with $60 million record deal.

Even though left tackle Andrew Whitworth is the first name in leadership and coming off his third Pro Bowl season while ranked PFF's second best pass-protecting tackle for 2016, the Bengals still recall their hard luck history with older plays and injuries. They were wary of multiple years with Whitworth turning 36 in December and they hate putting money in future years that would result in dead money if the player doesn't play but the team is still charged the cap count,

As late as Thursday morning they were hoping they could still keep Whitworth and Kirkpatrick, yet it would have meant moving some money out of one of the other position groups. When Whitworth took three years with the Rams, the Bengals were able to retain Kirkpatrick without cutting anyone.

But for how long?

With Kirkpatrick counting about $10 million against the cap this year and wide receiver Brandon LaFell another $5 million, the Bengals only have about $2-3 million for another deal to fit in under the $16-18 million they have budgeted to spend.

That could be running back Rex Burkhead or a linebacker or an offensive lineman out on the market. But anything beyond that and they'll probably have to start cutting some players. And they won't sign any unrestricted free agents to avoid harming their haul of compensatory draft picks for 2018. They believe they walked out of Thursday with a third-rounder for Zeitler and a fifth-rounder for Whitworth.

They don't have any backup tackles so they figure to start looking at re-signing backup right tackle Eric Winston. Since they have 11 draft picks they'll get at least one tackle and if they don't they could look at the veteran market after the draft. Or they could trade back in the first round and get one, but they may decide that's going on a treadmill because the guy replacing Whitworth, Cedric Ogbuehi, is also untried.

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