Posted September 02, 2013

Geno Atkins extension confirms Bengals’ commitment to D-line

AFC North, Cincinnati Bengals, NFL Free Agency
Geno Atkins (97) is coming off a season in which he compiled 12.5 sacks.

Geno Atkins (97) is coming off a season in which he compiled 12.5 sacks. (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

From 1991 through 2008 the Cincinnati Bengals made the playoffs one time. Their recent success — back-to-back postseason appearances and three trips to the playoffs in four years — has come from a plan built on patience.

And at the heart of that restoration project has been the Bengals’ defensive line. The franchise has built around its front four, a commitment reiterated again Monday as Cincinnati handed Pro Bowler Geno Atkins a five-year, $55 million extension.

Atkins, arguably the top defensive tackle in football, was to earn just $1.2 million this season on the final year of his rookie contract, with the specter of free agency looming after 2013. Rather than risk negotiating after the season or using the franchise tag, Cincinnati opted to pay up now, with Atkins securing $31 million in guaranteed money.

That move comes on the heels of the Bengals’ July decision to give DE Carlos Dunlap a contract extension worth $40 million. They then used the franchise tag on fellow end Michael Johnson, to the tune of $11.175 million. Add it all up and, per OvertheCap.com, the Bengals have committed more money to the defensive side of the football for 2013 (just shy of $64 million) than all but one other team (Kansas City).

Atkins’ well-deserved pay raise moves him near the top of the salary scale for interior defensive lineman, alongside Haloti Ngata (five years, $61 million) and Ndamukong Suh (five years, $60 million). Suh could be up for free agency after the 2014 season — his ’15 contract year is voidable, meaning he could walk. Suh and teammate Nick Fairley, whose deal also is set to end after 2014, could use Atkins’ contract as a barometer for their own demands.

The Bengals have mostly avoided contract headaches with their financial footwork this summer. The big decision forthcoming for them will be in relation to Johnson, who probably will become a free agent himself next offseason. Cincinnati prioritized contracts for Dunlap and Atkins over the 26-year-old end.

It’s hard to argue with either call. Dunlap, 24, appears to just now be tapping into his full range of talent. Atkins, meanwhile, is coming off a 12.5-sack 2012 season and, had it not been for J.J. Watt’s dominant season, may have had an argument for Defensive Player of the Year.

Cincinnati has molded the rest of its defense to work around what Atkins provides up front. Getting him locked up for the next several seasons ensures that the Bengals can continue on with that strategy, one that has paid dividends in the win column.

7 comments
rheffero
rheffero

Interesting, originally Kiper had him around 31, but then a subpar last year dropped him down to 3 or 4th round grade (from everyone).

Bengals got him in the 4th round, so right where he was projected to go. Bengals really started to turn around after that draft. But, they did get another TE in the first round this year (Gensham was in that draft as well)

They also selected Dunlap, Shipley and McGhee before Atkins, so let's not roll out the genius line.

That was the year of Suh, McCoy, Berry, Tebow...

Great job of turning things around for the guy. Watching him on Hard Knocks he comes off as a nice guy and well deserved raise.

MichaelWallis1
MichaelWallis1

I can't wait to see how my Lions team does against these Bengals. It will be interesting seing how the two best defensive lines in the NFL stack up in the same game.

jonesnaltitude
jonesnaltitude

As a Raven fan, I was hoping Mike Brown was going to find a way to screw this up. Well deserved.... Guy's a baller. I wish him luck against 30 teams. 

ParisLay
ParisLay

Check out the 1st Annual NFL Coach Hot-Seat Power Rankings...TOO FUNNY LMAO...See where your team's coach landed as well as the rest of the league's coaches....http://bit.ly/134XmLL 

eddie767
eddie767

@LeilaniHernandez Your reply,means 1)you know nothing,2)you know nothing and your fave team was right not to give you GM job. Anyway,if you followed football that would not have even come out of your brain or mouth. Pay attn. and you'll find out who Geno Smith is,you might even think he's better than what your team has.