Running back Giovani Bernard's time on the Cincinnati Bengals essentially was up last month when the team asked him to take a pay cut two weeks into free agency. Bernard said no thanks, and the Bengals tried to trade him. Alas, they couldn't find a taker for Bernard's $4.1 million salary so the 29-year-old was released Wednesday, but he shouldn't have trouble finding a team – especially one that needs a third-down receiving back.
Cincinnati didn't "need" Bernard, who was in the final year of his contract, as it has a terrific running back in Joe Mixon, although Mixon has had trouble staying healthy so the team is likely to select a tailback at some point in this month's draft as Mixon insurance even after re-signing Samaje Perine to a two-year deal. Bengals beat writers expect a running back to be targeted early in Day 3 of the draft, so perhaps Round 4. This move frees up $4.1 million of cap space, giving the Bengals around $27 million of room.
Bernard, a 2013 second-round pick, played all 16 games last season and started 10, rushing for 416 yards and three scores on 124 carries – 3.4 yards per carry, which isn't good. However, he caught 47 passes for 355 yards and three scores. Bernard's 342 career receptions are the most by a running back in Bengals history, and his 2,867 receiving yards are second-most. Bernard accumulated 6,564 career scrimmage yards and 33 touchdowns during his Cincinnati career.
Five teams immediately come to mind in needing a third-down back: Kansas City (hasn't re-signed Le'Veon Bell); Green Bay (lost Jamaal Williams in free agency); Arizona (lost Kenyan Drake in free agency); the Los Angeles Rams (lost Malcolm Brown in free agency); and Philadelphia – new Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni had a lot of success in Indianapolis with a Bernard-type back in Nyheim Hines, and Bernard worked with new Philly running backs coach/assistant head coach Jemal Singleton the past two seasons in Cincinnati.
All but the Eagles should be Super Bowl 56 contenders and Bernard may prefer to sign with a contender at this point in his career.
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