The Cincinnati Bengals signed first-round draft pick John Ross to his rookie contract, the team announced on Sunday.
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The receiver signed a four-year, $17.1 million contract with a $10.6 million signing bonus, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. The Bengals also agreed to pay Ross his full 2017 base salary if he’s on the non-football injury list, Rapoport added.
Ross, the former University of Washington wide receiver, clocked a 4.22-second 40-yard dash at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine, breaking the record previously set by Chris Johnson in 2008 (4.24).
“It’s great for John that this part of it is out of the way,” said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. “This gives him the opportunity to focus on finishing school and then football, and I think that’s important.”
The team inked linebacker Carl Lawson (fourth-round selection) to a four-year deal, as well.
That 2015 squad owned a backfield tandem in Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard who each ran for 730-plus yards, with Bernard adding 472 yards receiving. The wide receiver trio of A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu terrorized defenses. Tyler Eifert earned a Pro Bowl bid with career-highs of 615 yards and 13 TDs. And the offensive line was one of the best in the NFL.
Last year, that group was stripped. The Bengals lost Jones and Sanu in free agency. Eifert started just two games. And the running backs struggled with injury and production.
Heading into 2017, Green believes Cincinnati is restocked to return to that 2015 form. The Bengals added dynamic rookies in receiver John Ross and running back Joe Mixon. Wideout Tyler Boyd is expected to make the leap in Year 2. Speedy receiver Cody Core earned rave reviews from Green this offseason.
“They can all make plays all over the field,” Green said of his receiving corps, via the team’s official website. “I feel like we’re getting back to where we were in 2015 with Marvin, Mo. I feel like once TB gets settled in, he’ll be able to play faster because now he knows what to do and the way CC is coming along, and after adding Ross and adding [rookie running back Joe] Mixon, I feel like we’re getting back to that 2015 roster.”
There are a few stumbling blocks that could keep the 2017 offense from duplicating the 2015 success. The first is Green’s health. The superstar receiver missed six games last season, ending his streak of five straight seasons of 1,000-plus yards.
Dalton reported Tuesday that everything is good in the health realm with Green.
“I would say he’s better than he’s been,” Dalton said. “It’s the best shape he’s been in, probably. He’s fast, he’s big. He’s been doing it all. Even if you said he was the same, that’s really good.”
The other issue for the Bengals’ offense could be a reshuffled offensive line that is counting on tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher to take giant steps forward this season.
When the Bengals drafted the fastest man in football, John Ross, in the first-round last week it created a hotbed of speed in Cincinnati, where baseball hot rod Billy Hamilton already resided.
As is the case when any new kid moves onto the block, Hamilton is challenging Ross to a race to determine true speed superiority.
“It’s something I look forward to. I’m a competitor, if something happens with him, it happens,” Hamilton said Thursday, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. “We’ll do it for a charity event. I’m willing to do it.”
Ross set the NFL Combine record with a 4.22-second 40-yard dash. Hamilton leads the MLB in stolen bases and owns 200 in his five-year pro career. The Cincinnati Reds’ outfielder said he hasn’t run a 40-yard dash since ninth grade, but did it in 4.5 seconds.
“I think we could do 40 and I think it’d be a good race for the city and for me and him to get our names out there,” Hamilton said. “It’s something we could look forward to looking into, our agents [could talk] and see how it goes.”
Ross has yet to respond publicly to Hamilton, but you can bet with Bengals rookie minicamp opening this weekend, the wideout will be asked about the gauntlet being thrown.
Here is hoping the speedsters race. The world needs more street races.