Are the Cincinnati Bengals the first team that comes to mind when it comes to 2021’s free agency spending?
The Bengals invested $24 million in March on cornerback Mike Hilton as they finished revamping their starting secondary — a process started in the previous free agency — and it seems to be paying off.
At a crucial moment in the Bengals’ divisional round playoff game — just as the Titans seemed to be gaining momentum, and were at Cincinnati’s 9-yard line — Hilton intercepted a pass from quarterback Ryan Tannehill intended for wide receiver Chester Rogers and brought it back to the Bengals’ side.
Hilton jumped to bat the ball in the air and snatch it. He could have even had a chance to return it had Tannehill not run to tackle him after the INT.
Hilton signed a 4 year, $24 million contract with the Bengals that includes a $4 million signing bonus, $6 million guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $6 million, Spotrac reports. The 27-year-old cornerback will earn a base salary of $3 million in 2022, a roster bonus of $500,000 and a workout bonus of $500,000, while carrying a cap hit of $5,000,000 and a dead cap value of $3 million.
After going undrafted out of the University of Mississippi, Hilton signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent in 2016.
While Hilton got the interception and took it 19 yards, he wasn’t the only Bengal who intercepted a Tannehill pass. Bengals safety Jessie Bates III and linebacker Logan Wilson cashed in on INTs, too.
Titans DB Armani Hooker grabbed a Burrow pass shortly after Hilton’s interception and gave the offense a chance to score in the third quarter.
The Bengals went on to beat the Titans 19-16 in Nashville and will face the winner of the Chiefs vs. Bills matchup in the AFC Championship.