The Cincinnati Bengals are locking up one of the NFL’s most underrated run defenders long-term.
Sam Hubbard, a 2018 third-round pick out of Ohio State and Cincinnati native, signed a four-year, $40 million contract extension with the Bengals on Sunday, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The 26-year-old edge defender ranked first in total run stops (31) and 16th in PFF run-defense grade (69.1) at his position in 2020. He also ranked inside the top-10 in percentage of positively graded plays in run defense.
Hubbard, however, hasn’t had nearly the same success as a pass-rusher. He has never earned a PFF pass-rushing grade above 65.0 and earned a career-low 59.1 pass-rushing grade that ranked 50th among qualifying edge defenders in 2020. He also recorded the sixth-lowest PFF pass-rush win rate (10%) this past season.
Hubbard’s lackluster pass-rushing prowess is the primary reason he didn’t sign a monster contract extension. His $10 million average salary per year (APY) ranks T-26th with Houston Texans’ Shaq Lawson among NFL edge defenders. The contract falls in line with Lawson and other similar players – big, physical 4-3 defensive ends that can set the edge in run defense but don’t necessarily excel rushing the passer.
Las Vegas Raiders edge defender Carl Nassib signed a three-year, $25 million ($8.33 million per year) contract last offseason with a very similar profile. Nassib and Hubbard are both former third-round picks, and they had nearly identical production from 2018-19.
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Hubbard took another step in 2020 and earned a rare early extension from the Cincinnati Bengals.
With Hubbard’s contract extension signed, attention should shift to Bengals star safety Jessie Bates III and his future with the team.
The Bengals drafted Bates one round ahead of Hubbard in the 2018 NFL Draft. The 24-year-old Wake Forest product was the highest-graded safety (90.1) in 2020 and landed at No. 8 on PFF’s 2021 safety rankings. His 12 forced incompletions also led all safeties.
Of course, the Bates extension could be delayed if he chooses to wait for Seattle Seahawks safety Jamal Adams to reset the market. NFL Media’s Mike Garofalo reported Friday the Seahawks are willing to make him the highest-paid safety in the NFL.
The Hubbard extension should domino into a monster contract extension for Bates soon enough as the Bengals prioritize paying its best young talent.