In spite of his relatively successful employment, arguably the two things one is most likely to know about Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Eli Apple is the fact that he was considered a first-round bust, and the fact that he has a big mouth.
The former 10th-overall pick has somewhat rehabilitated his image as an NFL player over the past two seasons with the Bengals, managing to reform himself into a reasonably stable, if no better than average, starter. As per the latter, he has no intentions of changing that no matter where he plays.
“I’ll leave that chip on my shoulder no matter what”, Geoff Hobson quotes him as telling reporters recently for the team’s website. “I’ll talk my biggest trash. Whether I back it up or don’t, it doesn’t matter. It’s a game to me. It’s something I love to do. No matter what anybody on the outside has to say”.
There are, of course, a lot more trash talkers out there than we’re aware of, but many, perhaps most, limit that to the field rather than extending it very visibly to social media. It’s notable that Apple has been rather silent since his poor performance against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Bengals’ loss, depriving them of a second straight Super Bowl berth.
This isn’t his first humbling that he’s taken, though, starting with his struggles on the field as a member of the New York Giants, which led to his being traded to the New Orleans Saints during his third season. He had some success there before taking a step backward in Carolina in 2020, released after playing all of two games.
One man’s misfortune, however, proved to be his opportunity, as the Bengals failed to get prized free agent cornerback Trae Waynes on the field in 2021. That swung the door open for Apple to contribute that season, ultimately starting 15 games in the regular season and throughout the playoffs.
As implied in his comments, he is set to be a free agent once again after playing out a one-year, $3.5 million contract. He played under a minimum-salary contract during the 2021 season. After two years of steady starting work, could he finally land a multi-year deal, and with whom? He’d like to be in Cincinnati.
“I’ll definitely come back”, he said, to Cincinnati even if he winds up somewhere else. “I want to go anywhere I’m wanted. No team like [the Bengals]. Can’t catch that feel anywhere else. Maybe you could, but I don’t know, I’ve been a lot of other places. It’s rare”.
The Bengals are his fourth NFL team after flaming out with the Giants, having a moderate turnaround in New Orleans, being a complete disappointment in Carolina, and finally finding relevance, and possibly a home, with the Bengals.
For now, he appears to have lost to open his mouth too much on social media. But you know that never lasts very long.