Giovani Bernard was the first running back selected in 2013, yet he has never really been the number on running back on his team. Granted, he also was never drafted to be that guy, and the Cincinnati Bengals have continued to draft with that mindset. The year after him, they drafted Jeremy Hill in the second round, and then 2017 saw them take Joe Mixon in the second as well.
But that hasn’t stopped them from paying him. For the second time in his career, Bernard received an extension from the Bengals, this time for two years and $10.3 million. That’s pretty good money even for a starter in today’s running back market, and clearly shows how much they value him.
It also helps that Mixon, who led the AFC in rushing a year ago, is still on his rookie contract as he heads into his third year, though he will of course be due for an extension prior to the start of the 2020 season. What will his price tag look like by that point?
Bernard has 744 total carries in his first six seasons, with his career-high in carries coming during his rookie season at 170. He has produced 3111 yards on the ground, averaging 4.2 yards per carry with 19 touchdowns, but it’s his ability to both run and catch that makes him the most valuable.
In addition to his 744 carries, he has 265 receptions for another 2278 yards and eight more touchdowns. That puts him at 1009 touches for 5398 yards from scrimmage with 27 touchdowns for his career. From an efficiency standpoint, his rookie season remains his best, averaging 5.3 yards per touch with eight touchdowns, totaling 1209 yards.
In 2018, Bernard was limited to 12 games. He only recorded 56 carries for 211 yards with three touchdowns. As a receiving threat, he caught 26 passes for 218 yards with no touchdowns. His 91 touches were the lowest for a season in his career by 39, and he has missed as many as six games in a season before.
The extension perhaps signals that new head coach Zac Taylor envisions a bigger role for him to pair with Mixon going forward, though of course the latter will remain the featured back. Last season, Mixon recorded 28 touches for 1464 yards with nine touchdowns. 1168 yards came on the ground, along with eight of his nine touchdowns.