Bengals lock up center Trey Hopkins, offer protection for potential No. 1 pick Joe Burrow

·Yahoo Sports Contributor

One day ahead of their regular-season finale, the Cincinnati Bengals crossed off one of their top offseason priorities: locking up center Trey Hopkins.

The team announced the extension on Saturday, which NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported is worth $20.4 million over three years with $4.5 million in guarantees.

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Hopkins was set to hit free agency this offseason and had just developed into one of the league’s better centers after beating out 2018 first-rounder Billy Price for the Bengals’ starting job this season. The 27-year-old had started 21 games in the previous two seasons, rotating between right guard, left guard and center.

The former undrafted free agent out of Texas will be on an eminently affordable deal. There are currently 14 centers with deals potentially worth more than his $20.4 million, and 21 with more than his $4.5 million in guarantees. There does not appear to be much risk in retaining Hopkins.

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Re-signing Hopkins was crucial for the Bengals because they appear likely to take a quarterback first overall next year — perhaps Ohio native Joe Burrow — and he needs to be well protected. Plenty of quarterbacks from David Carr to Andrew Luck have seen their careers derailed by taking too many hits.

While the Miami Dolphins traded away their best offensive lineman, the Bengals continue to invest in their offensive line. They used their last two first-round picks on Price and former Alabama tackle Jonah Williams — who will make his debut next season — and also traded for Cordy Glenn, who has one year left on his five-year, $60 million deal.

The Bengals still have a number of other major questions this offseason besides who to take first overall in the draft. Franchise icon A.J. Green is set to hit free agency and has said he will resist a franchise tag, while it may also be time to move on from quarterback Andy Dalton, but it’s good to get a head start.

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 10:  Trey Hopkins #66 of the Cincinnati Bengals looks on during the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium on November 10, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  The Ravens defeated the Bengals 49-13.  (Photo by Rob Leiter/Getty Images)
The Bengals signed center Trey Hopkins to a three-year extension on Saturday. (Rob Leiter/Getty Images)

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