Bengals’ Money Mac next up for contract extension?

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

While the Cincinnati Bengals have two wide receivers seeking new long-term contracts, there is one other player likely to get a deal done as his final guaranteed season approaches.

Negotiations for Tee Higgins long ago stalled, Ja’Marr Chase is expected to get his done before the 2025 season, and now eyes are on kicker Evan McPherson.

The Bengals extended veteran center Ted Karras last week on the final day of minicamp, and he especially expressed gratitude toward the organization for offering “a great deal” before training camp so he wouldn’t face the uncertainty for his future while trying to prepare for the final season of his contract.

McPherson said that’s not a concern for him.

“I don’t think timing is a huge deal for me,” McPherson said. “It’s going to happen when it happens because if you’re so focused on that, you’re going to take your mind off other things, so it’s just being at peace with whatever happens. There’s other opportunities out there if it doesn’t happen here, but I really hope it does.”

Asked if he thinks he will be the next player on the team to get a contract, McPherson said he doesn’t know what to expect.

“I’d like to be here a long time,” he said. ‘I love it here. I mean, the past few years have been really fun and I would love to stay, but I don’t know. We’ll see.”

Chase was waiting for Minnesota wide receiver Justin Jefferson to get his contract extension, which he signed about two weeks ago to become the highest paid non-quarterback in the league. His target will be to top that.

McPherson has his own target, knowing Baltimore’s Justin Tucker is the highest-paid kicker, but there seems to be a standard pattern for those contracts.

“I feel like that’s kind of how the league is,” McPherson said. “With Ja’Marr and Justin, you kind of compare yourself to other guys and what they’re making and what they’re doing. I feel like you have a knowing of what you’re worth in a sense, for the NFL. I don’t know how it will shake out, but we’ll see.”

The 2021 fifth-round draft pick has been one of the league’s top kickers, breaking onto the scene with a wild rookie season that included two game-winning walk-off field goals as time expired in the postseason run to Super Bowl LVI.

McPherson ranks third on Cincinnati’s all-time field goal percentage list (83.9 percent), has the most 50-yard field goals in team history with 21, which also ties for the most by any NFL kicker since 2021, and he is 19-for-19 on field goals in the postseason (seven games), which is the second most made field goals without a miss to begin a postseason career in NFL history. Robbie Gould made his first 29 postseason field goal attempts.

“I’m always trying to improve on field goals, always trying to be a little more consistent with ball striking and accuracy,” McPherson said. “Just trying to put everything to the middle of the uprights and not stress while the ball’s in the air. Have more no-doubters, if you will.”

McPherson doesn’t need to change anything with his field goal process, aside from whatever minor tweaks he feels can help. The focus this offseason was on figuring out how to be efficient on kickoffs with the new rule changes making that play more important than it was in the past.

The new rule dramatically changes the look and feel of kickoffs because of where players now line up. There should be regular kick returns now, so the Bengals have been working on different ways for McPherson to kick the ball into the “landing zone” to help his kickoff team get to the returner before he can make a big run.

“I can’t disclose my secrets, but it’s a lot of that,” McPherson said. “We’ll set the ball this way and see what happens. I think it’s basically going to come down to playing keep-away, trying to get the ball on the ground and play keep-away from the returners, just try to give our coverage team time to get off blocks and stuff.”

McPherson said it’s “always fun to spice it up and try new things” with his technique on kickoffs, but with more returns, there’s also the likelihood kickers will need to start making tackles. That’s not something he particularly looks forward to, but he said he’s not going to let anyone go through.

Other teams have toyed with the idea of having a safety or linebacker taking kickoffs for that reason but the Bengals believe McPherson’s technique can give them a better advantage than a non-kicker taking that role. McPherson agrees he should still be taking them.

“I feel like kickers around the league, we have enough touch to be consistent in where we land it on the kickoffs,” McPherson said. “That’s a great point about the safeties and linebackers that can kick or tight ends that can kick but can’t really control it as well as we can. We can drop it in the five-yard box, where they would be a little more inconsistent in that area, so yeah, I feel like we will just try to limit more returns that way, try to play keep-away, hit the ball a little deeper down the field and hopefully we don’t have to make as many tackles.”

About the Author