Sam Hubbard Extension Signals Cincinnati Bengals New Leadership

From the onset of the off-season, a Sam Hubbard extension looked like a priority for the Cincinnati Bengals. After all, the hometown kid and Ohio State graduate has acted as a voice for the community and been a leader inside the locker room. On Sunday, the organization worked with the defensive end (entering his fourth NFL season) to complete a deal that will keep him in Cincinnati into his thirties. While Hubbard has more to prove in seasons to come, he is a versatile and statured member of this young corps. Heading into this season, they have erased one of their biggest contract question marks. 

After Completing the Sam Hubbard Extension, the Cincinnati Bengals Now Have a Clear Defensive Leader

Seemingly, it was a deal that was never in doubt; the cash was just a matter of doing business. On Sunday, Sam Hubbard inked a four-year, $40 million extension to stay with his hometown Cincinnati Bengals. A graduate of football powerhouse Archbishop Moeller High School, Hubbard is a community and lockerroom leader the team could not afford to lose. Not that his departure was on the table; he speaks highly of the organization and the Zac Taylor-led coaching staff. Drafted in the third round of the 2018 draft by Marvin Lewis, he has made a positive impression throughout the entire organization. Hubbard was one of the faces chosen to participate in the team’s “New Stripes” uniform launch this spring. Interestingly, they are also building a defense in his hard-working, high-motor mold as a player. 

Additionally, Hubbard is a part of an increasingly expensive Cincinnati Bengals defensive line. Over the last two years, they have inked pricey, four-year deals with D.J. Reader and Trey Hendrickson. Plus, they have made short-term commitments to starting talent in Mike Daniels and Larry Ogunjobi. Then, there are draft investments with Khalid Kareem, Joseph Ossai, Cameron Sample, Tyler Shelvin, and Wyatt Hubert. While Hubbard’s cash value ranks in the middle of the pool, his role on the team might be the most important. While having all of those pieces certainly helps, Hubbard’s leadership is more important than ever.

Including his role in recruiting free agents to the city, he is a close friend of rising quarterback Joe Burrow. Burrow and Hubbard are a pair of tight partners dating back to their shared days with the Ohio State Buckeyes. Together, they make up an important part of the Bengals identity, ideology, and leadership. While Hubbard is not at the same talent level as Burrow, his impact on the defense holds similar weight. 

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What Sam Hubbard Provides the Cincinnati Bengals Defense

Hubbard is one of the game’s best-run defenders off of the edge. In 2020, Hubbard ranked first in his position group with 31 run stops, despite missing three games. Further, he ranked first in ESPN’s run stop win rate (34%) ahead of stars like Brandon Graham and Khalil Mack. Certainly, he is going to be an important piece if the Bengals intend to solve their running game woes. Even with Hubbard’s high-level production, they have been unable to contain the run. In fact, they have been the worst rushing defense in the NFL over the last two seasons. However, if health is on their side and investments pay off, they should be due for a dramatic correction.

Where Hubbard doesn’t flash as much, however, is in the ever-important pass rush. Now, Hubbard is far from a slouch around the edge, but he is relatively average in that aspect. In 2020, he compiled just two sacks in 13 games. Granted, an early-season injury hurt his productivity. After all, he posted six sacks in 2018 and 8.5 sacks in 2019. Plus, sacks aren’t always the greatest way to measure productivity. Hubbard doesn’t provide the flashy pressures like, for example, Carl Lawson. Instead, his high-motor style results in some good payoff on the margins. Still, the Bengals are hoping to get more production out of Hubbard over the length of this contract. Seemingly, they are hoping that pairing Hubbard alongside Hendrickson, who posted 13.5 sacks last season, should help in that department. Regardless, Hubbard is an adequate pass rusher, even though he received an underwhelming 59.1 grade from Pro Football Focus a year ago.

Who Is Next for the Cincinnati Bengals and Their Front Office?

With the Sam Hubbard extension out of the way, all sights turn towards Jessie Bates III. Ranking as one of, if not the very best safety in the NFL, Bates is likely to receive a massive extension ahead of the regular season. Certainly, it will exceed Hubbard’s deal and will likely make him the highest-paid player in franchise history. With Bates being just a few months past his 25th birthday and Hubbard turning 26 in June, the Bengals are presenting a sustainable defense for the future. Seemingly, this is a time similar to when the team inked new deals with Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap on the same day in 2018. However, the Bengals will hope for more fortuitous endings to the Bates and Hubbard deals. 

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Checking off the Sam Hubbard extension marks a big moment ahead of the regular season. While they still have some business to complete, this deal makes their work a little easier. Seemingly, it also helps erase the recent narrative that the Bengals cannot retain their own. Hubbard, a big part of the leadership, is now locked into his future in his hometown.

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