Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reported Thursday that Bernard "could be headed elsewhere" unless he's willing to restructure his two-year, $9.7 million contract, which includes a $4.8 million cap hit for 2021.
Bernard has been a valuable dual-threat weapon out of the backfield over the past eight years in Cincinnati.
The 29-year-old UNC product has recorded 6,564 yards from scrimmage (3,697 rushing and 2,867 receiving) with 33 total touchdowns in 115 games since the Bengals selected him in the second round of the 2013 draft.
Bernard was thrust into a more prominent weekly role in 2020 with starter Joe Mixon limited to six appearances because of a foot injury. He finished with 771 yards from scrimmage, his highest total since 2017, and found the end zone six times after scoring no touchdowns in 2019.
"When those opportunities come, I try and make the most of them," Bernard told reporters in December. "Ever since I came in, when those opportunities show themselves, I try and take advantage because you never know what is going to happen, especially playing the position I play at running back—you never know what that next carry holds."
Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said in early March that Mixon "feels really good right now," which suggests he's on track to return for the 2021 season.
Mixon is capable of handling a three-down role when healthy, and Cincinnati also features Samaje Perine, Trayveon Williams and Jacques Patrick under contract at running back.
So Bernard could be expendable, and he could be of interest to a contender who's looking for a third-down specialist who can take on a heavier workload when necessary.