|National Football League|
Bengals sign top draft pick CB Kirkpatrick
By JOE KAY
CINCINNATI (AP) The Bengals signed cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick of Alabama to a four-year contract on Friday, the first time in nine years that they've reached a deal so quickly with their top pick.
Kirkpatrick was the first of Cincinnati's two picks in the opening round, going 17th overall. He's expected to compete for a starting job. Leon Hall, the Bengals' top cornerback, is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and is expected to be ready for the season.
It's the second year in a row that the Bengals have signed their top pick before the start of training camp. The club had a history of holdouts until a rookie salary cap was instituted under the collective bargaining agreement last year.
Receiver A.J. Green, the club's first-round pick in 2011, signed a day before training camp opened.
Kirkpatrick's signing is the quickest by a first-round Bengals pick since 2003, when the club reached an agreement with quarterback Carson Palmer before the draft. The Bengals were free to negotiate with Palmer because they had the top overall pick.
"It's great for the club and great for Dre to have him signed this early," coach Marvin Lewis said. "Contracts can be a distraction for young guys drafted high, but now he can put all that behind him and focus on making himself better and making us a better team."
The Bengals traded Palmer to Oakland during last season in exchange for a couple of draft picks, including the 17th overall choice that they used on Kirkpatrick. They used their own pick to get Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler, who hasn't yet signed.
Cincinnati now has six of its 10 picks under contract.
Updated May 18, 2012