Darqueze Dennard was a little surprised how slow the free agent market was for cornerbacks this year — it seemed nobody was getting a big contract at that position.
The sixth-year player said that might have factored into his decision to sign a one-year deal to return to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Dennard, who became an unrestricted free agent March 13, visited one other team and had a couple other potential opportunities but ultimately decided Cincinnati was the best fit. He officially signed his new contract Monday .
“I think it was a little undervalued this free agency for whatever reason,” Dennard said about the cornerback position.
Dennard, a nickel corner for the Bengals, played in 13 games with nine starts last season, recording 67 total tackles (53 solos) on defense, as well as six passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. His tackle total ranked fourth on the team. Overall, he has played in 68 games (19 starts) in his five pro seasons.
Free agency was a little stressful, Dennard said. At the end of the 2018 season, he wasn’t sure whether he would be back but kept his house and all of his things still in his locker at Paul Brown Stadium with the thought he could stay with the Bengals.
A first-round draft pick out of Michigan State in 2014, Dennard said he tried to distance himself from the process but got daily updates from his agent.
“It’s nothing to do with football,” he said. “It’s the total opposite, so for me it’s a little frustrating just the whole process. Then, you have to make decisions, you have to go to this place, talk to this person, talk to this person. I just want to play football. It’s something my agent did a great job keeping me calm, saying, ‘Don’t try to rush the decision,’ and all that type of stuff.”
One day into the free agency period, the Bengals signed cornerback B.W. Webb , who spent last year with the Giants, but Dennard said he didn’t think that necessarily would keep him from returning.
Dennard even consulted several current and past teammates, including defensive end Carlos Dunlap and former Bengals defensive backs George Iloka, Reggie Nelson, Adam Jones and Leon Hall. All the advice was pretty much the same, he said.
“Basically you’ve got to be comfortable with your decision, whatever it is,” Dennard said. “Don’t let nobody else make your decision. Don’t really too much worry about the money. Wherever you go, you’ve got to be comfortable with it. You’ve got to play there. You’ve got to wake up every day and come to work.”
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In the end, Dennard felt comfortable staying. He said it meant a lot that new head coach Zac Taylor and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo wanted to keep him on board even though they had no personal connections or need to show any loyalty.
Dennard liked knowing he is coming back to a place he is familiar but also will be getting a fresh start of sorts with so many changes to the coaching staff. His position coaches remain the same, as Robert Livingston returns as a secondary/safeties coach and Daronte Jones is back as secondary/cornerbacks coach.
“Rob and D.J., … I dealt with previous years,” Dennard said. “Rob, I’ve had here since I got drafted, and the players of course, the D-coordinator re-styled, the head coach re-styled, and everybody is just talking — the energy in the building I just heard was different, so that’s obviously a big reason. Cincinnati gave me a chance when no one else did.
“For me, coming to work here the past five years, building a relationship with the training staff, the players, obviously there is other stuff that goes in as well. They all had something to do with the decision and it just felt like the right place.”
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