Earlier this offseason, the Cincinnati Bengals made the decision not to bring back pass rusher Carl Lawson, allowing him to leave in free agency and replacing him with free agent Trey Hendrickson. It was a somewhat curious decision at the time, but was perhaps helped in clarification with Sunday’s news.
According to Adam Schefter, the Bengals agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract extension for their other edge defender, Sam Hubbard, so in the end, it may have been a matter of one or the other, and their belief that Hendrickson would be an upgrade.
Bengals and DE Sam Hubbard reached agreement on a four-year, $40 million extension, per sources.
An important signing for the Bengals defense.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 25, 2021
Lawson, a former 2017 fourth-round draft pick, signed a three-year, $45 million contract to join the New York Jets. That deal included $30 million in guarantees, including guaranteed base salaries in the first two years of the deal. Only his $15 million 2023 base salary is not guaranteed.
The Bengals signed Hendrickson at the same annual rate, inking him to a four-year deal worth $60 million. However, he only received $16 million in guarantees. Cincinnati is one of the few remaining organizations, along with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers, who seek to operate in this manner.
Hubbard, meanwhile, was a third-round pick out of Ohio State in 2018. He has been a full-time starter over the course of the past two seasons. He recorded six sacks as a rookie, and 8.5 in 2019 during his first year as a starter. Last season, however, he only finished with two sacks over 13 games.
Yet outside of himself and safety Jessie Bates III, and scant others, the Bengals’ defense will be virtually entirely new. While that will include, for example, Trae Waynes, who was signed in free agency last year but missed the whole season, there aren’t many holdovers from last season, and Hubbard and Bates are the only starters remaining from the 2019 season, Zac Taylor’s first.
Aside from the addition of Hendrickson, the Bengals also added Mike Hilton and Chidobie Awuzie to the secondary. Vonn Bell was signed in free agency last year, as was D.J. Reader. Larry Ogunjobi was another free agent signing this year, entering the starting lineup next to Reader in the trenches.
The Bengals have been searching for answers on defense for years now, and over the course of the past two offseasons, they’ve turned their focus to free agency to try to find them. With Hubbard as a rare homegrown talent under contract for the long term, the focus will now turn to Bates, a fourth-year safety who is due to be a free agent next offseason.