The Bengals announced Thursday that they have signed first-round pick, cornerback Darqueze Dennard, the former Michigan State standout. Based on the collective bargaining agreement, Dennard stands more than $8 million over the next four years with the Bengals holding a fifth-year option.
"Of course it's great to have all this done well before we come back for training camp," coach Marvin Lewis said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Dehner. "As for Darqueze, he's been everything we hoped he would be to this point. He's a great talent. He played in a big-time pressure defense at Michigan State and he's not afraid to be out there (in coverage) by himself. And as we knew he would, he conducts himself every day as a mature pro who wants to get better every day."
The 24th overall pick, Dennard gives the Bengals another first-round talent in the secondary. During OTAs, he has replaced '07 first-rounder Leon Hall, who is currently recovering from an Achilles injury.
"I like Darqueze," Hall said, via the team website. "The only hesitation I have is judging people too early, especially before the pads come out. But if you look at him in the helmets, I think he's done everything the coaches have asked him to do. He's definitely smart enough to make an impact in his first year once he gets more comfortable, knows the defense a little better. ... He understands the playbook. To begin with that's what a lot of people struggle with.”
Last season, Dennard won the Thorpe Award as the nation's top collegiate defensive back, and he was also a USA Today All-American. Whether that will translate into a starting job in the NFL is another matter, but it's certainly a possibility.
"Starting a rookie at corner, it depends on the person. Darqueze is a very mature person," Bengals defensive backs coach Vance Joseph told Dehner. "He's an achiever also. From high school to college, he's been a winner. His personality, his skill set, I would feel fine starting him. But he's got to earn it. We've got Leon Hall here. We've got Terence Newman. We've got Adam Jones. We've got Dre Kirkpatrick. He's got to earn it."