The Cincinnati Bengals announced the release of running back Giovani Bernard on Wednesday after he spent eight years with the organization.
Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network reported Bernard requested his release after the team approached him about taking a pay cut two weeks into free agency.
Bernard was scheduled to count $4.8 million against the salary cap in 2021 as part of his two-year, $9.7 million contract. The Bengals saved $4.1 million with the roster move.
The 29-year-old UNC product made an instant dual-threat impact for Cincinnati after being selected in the second round of the 2013 draft. He topped 1,000 yards from scrimmage in each of his first three NFL seasons and tallied 17 total touchdowns over that span.
His impact as a rusher has faded over
– his 124 carries in 2020 were his most since 2015, and
he's finished below four yards per attempt in four of the past five
seasons – but he's remained a valuable asset as a pass-catcher out
of the backfield
Bernard has recorded 342 receptions for 2,867 yards and 11 touchdowns in his career, including 47 catches in 2020, which ranked tied for 11th among running backs.
"Throughout my life I've been dealt bad cards here and there, but it's always, 'What does that next hand [hold]?" Bernard told reporters in December. "There is always an opportunity to capitalize. There is always an opportunity to grow from your mistakes or whatever it may have been ... It's in my DNA."
The 5'9'', 205-pound Florida native should attract ample interest as a third-down weapon, as he could provide value to a contender in that niche role.
Teams may wait until after the draft, which kicks off April 29, to see how their backfield depth chart stacks up before making him an offer, though.
Meanwhile, Bernard's departure from Cincinnati sets the stage for Joe Mixon to handle a substantial three-down workload in 2021, with Samaje Perine and Trayveon Williams as the chief reserves.