William Jackson III is the contract extension the Bengals should focus on

William Jackson III (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
William Jackson III (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

While Joe Mixon and A.J. Green extensions have been at the forefront, William Jackson’s future with the Cincinnati Bengals has been overlooked.

The Cincinnati Bengals have a few decisions to make when it comes to money. July 15, the deadline to sign A.J. Green to an extension, is coming up. Additionally, running back Joe Mixon is a dark horse candidate to holdout if not given a contract extension before Week one. The front office would like to keep both of these offensive talents, but the player they should be most concerned with extending is actually neither of them. It’s cornerback William Jackson III.

Aside from a disappointing 2019 campaign, Jackson has shown himself to have legit shutdown corner ability. In limited playing time throughout 2017, he was graded as one of the top cornerbacks in the league by Pro Football Focus with a grade of 90.2, an elite grade by PFF’s standards. While he has not had another season up to that standard, he earned a high-quality grade of 73.4 in his 2018 season. As the team’s play as a whole took a steep decline in 2019, so did Jackson’s.

This should not be a reason for pessimism, however. Jackson’s poor campaign was merely a product of the disaster of a team that the Bengals fielded in 2019. With an improved secondary around him, Jackson should reach new heights in 2020. The front office should get him locked down before his price skyrockets.

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What about Green and Mixon?

The offensive duo of wide receiver Green and running back Mixon is an important one, for sure. However, William Jackson is a much more valuable asset for the Bengals in the future and should be compensated as such.

Green is a potential future Hall of Fame inductee. The problem is that he is getting up there in age and has not played a fully healthy season in years. Before the seven-time Pro Bowler is given a big-time contract, he needs to show he has gas, and health, still in the tank.

Mixon, on the other hand, may just be the most talented player on the roster. However, he plays one of the least valued positions in the league at running back. Recent history shows that dishing out big bucks for running backs is just not a smart move. While the team would certainly miss Mixon’s running abilities, would they really be worse off with a committee approach with Giovani Bernard, Rodney Anderson, and Trayveon Williams? If Zac Taylor could emulate Kyle Shanahan’s success with the 49ers, Mixon may not be needed.

That leaves Jackson, who is a much more valuable asset to the Bengals than either Green or Mixon. First of all, a shutdown corner may just be the most important piece to a team other than quarterback or left tackle. Also, the Bengals’ defense cannot afford to lose their top cornerback, as Trae Waynes and Darius Phillips are the only Cincinnati corners under contract past the 2020 season. It just makes sense to prioritize signing the fifth-year cornerback.

What would a contract extension look like for William Jackson?

The biggest question surrounding a Jackson extension is the money. Cornerbacks get paid top dollar in the NFL, for proof of that, look no further than newly acquired Bengals’ corner Trae Waynes, who was given a 3-year contract for $42 Million.

Jackson would likely fetch more money than Waynes if he were to stay in Cincinnati. The soon-to-be free agent is likely to want top money at his position and a multi-year contract. If the Bengals want to lock him down before the market resets next offseason, they could offer him a contract somewhere in the ballpark of 5 years for $75 Million, or $15 Million a year.

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Regardless of what happens before the season, Jackson is likely to have a re-emergence in 2020 that could lead to a big contract down the line. The Bengals would be smart to think ahead and get pen to paper as soon as possible.