The Bengals are hoping for a consistent and healthy William Jackson III this season

James Rapien

CINCINNATI — The Bengals are currently negotiating a potential extension with running back Joe Mixon. 

The 24-year-old isn't the only player on the team entering the final year of his contract. Cornerback William Jackson III is set to be a free agent next offseason. The Bengals are hoping 2016 first-round pick can take a step forward.

"He’s coming off that shoulder [injury], so I want him to stay healthy. And I want him to be consistent," defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said. "That’s all any of us want, especially in the back end. If you’re a consistent player, you’ll play in this league [for] a long time. He’s got great God-given ability. He has to do it on every snap." 

Jackson, who played through a torn labrum for most of last season, had the worst season of his career in 2019. He allowed 14.6 yard-per-reception to opposing wide receivers according to Pro Football Focus, which was a career-high. Quarterbacks completed 61 percent of their passes when throwing at Jackson. 

The Bengals need him to be a shutdown corner and he was in 2017. He went toe-to-toe with Antonio Brown and other elite wide receivers. He was good in 2018, but not as dominant. 

Bringing in guys like Vonn Bell, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander puts Jackson in a good position. If he can go out there and cover like it's 2017, then those guys will tackle and hit. 

Bell and Alexander are tough, physical players. Waynes is solid in coverage, but no one expects him to be a true number one cornerback. If Jackson can come in and lock down one side of the field, then Waynes is a perfect compliment in the secondary. 

The Bengals aren't interested in signing Jackson to an extension this offseason, but that could change quick if he looks anything like he did in 2017. 

“William’s a guy that we think is gonna have a big year for us this year and we hope he does," Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin said. "He’s a guy that’s fought through injuries. He did last year. He’s a guy that has a bright future. Right now I can’t predict whether they’ll be an extension on his horizon or not, but we’ll see as we go here.”

Jackson has a chance to cash in next offseason, but he has to show the Bengals and the rest of the league that he's still the same guy that dominated opposing wide receivers in 2017.

"For him, it’s consistency," Anarumo said. "Both in the run game where he’s asked to tackle but certainly paramount in the pass game where he’s asked to cover and knock balls down and pick them off. Consistency would be the number one thing with him."

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