Bengals’ veteran cut candidates: Giovani Bernard
The Bengals have a very strong group of running backs. Starter Joe Mixon is one of the best backs in the entire league. Second-year players Trayveon Williams and Rodney Anderson are both very talented players with the potential to develop into solid backs. The running back in danger of losing his roster spot is the Bengals’ longest-tenured player at the position: Giovani Bernard.
Gio is a fan favorite in Cincinnati, but his impact over the past few seasons has been very minor. With Mixon proving himself to be a solid workhorse back, Bernard’s touches have disappeared. Over the past two seasons, he has only had 109 carries for 381 yards and 3 touchdowns. As a receiver, he has only had 65 receptions for 452 yards.
As one of the Bengals’ fifteen highest-paid players, these numbers don’t cut it. Bernard has two years left on his contract for a total of $9,700,000. With star running back Mixon seeking a possibly lucrative contract extension, the front office may need to shed Gio’s contract to feel good about paying the 2018 AFC rushing champion. Giving running backs big deals is frowned upon in the current NFL landscape, but paying two running backs is excessive for even the harshest defenders of the position.
With young blood at the position in Williams and Anderson, the Bengals could also want to go a different route at their #2 running back spot. If the coaching staff feels good about either of the second-year players and wants to expand their role in the offense, Gio could become even less of a factor than he already is.
Bernard’s play is not to blame for any of this. He is still a very solid running back. However, for whatever reason, he has not been able to carve out a role in the Bengals’ offense ever since Mixon took over. In order to move younger players up the totem pole, it may be time Gio and the Bengals split ways.
Despite all this, there is one scenario in which the Bengals should keep Bernard. If the front office does not want to give Mixon the money he feels he deserves in a second contract, they could move on from the fourth-year running back and choose to go with a running back by committee approach. Without Mixon as a lead back, a trio of Bernard, Williams, and Anderson could work well together to make a formidable rushing attack.
However, if the Bengals want to give Mixon a contract extension, the first step should be to move on from Gio.