It was apparent before the preseason even began that the Cincinnati Bengals were interested in keeping the defensive core that ranked fifth-best in the NFL last season. After signing DE Carlos Dunlap to an extension and using the franchise tag on DE Michael Johnson, the possibility of the Bengals reaching an agreement with DT Geno Atkins greatly improved.
That possibility became reality as the Bengals and Atkins have agreed to a five-year, $55 million extension according to league sources.
Atkins, who is a two-time Pro Bowl player after three seasons in NFL with Cincinnati, has played in every game Cincinnati has played since Atkins came into the league. Last season, Atkins led the Bengals with a team-record 12.5 sacks.
The deal means Atkins will average $11 million per season over the next five years, making it the second highest contract in league history for defenseive tackles behind Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata’s 5-year, $61 million contract extension that was signed two years ago.
Now the Bengals will be able to focus on signing quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green next season. Both players are eligible for extension talks after the rookie salary agreement term of three years is up.
This extension is good for both sides, although Atkins might have been able to hold out until free agency and get more money because he’s really that good. Atkins’ sack totals the last two seasons were better than Ngata’s, but Ngata does have more tackles.
Still, the biggest stat that teams and agents look at when dealing with defensive lineman is sacks and Atkins is much more capable than Ngata with 7.5 sacks in 2011 and 12.5 last season, compared with Ngata’s 5.0 sacks in both ’11 and ’12.Keep in mind that Atkins accomplished these numbers in three seasons while Ngata hasn’t had a season with more than 5.5 sacks in his eight-year career.
However, experience is a factor and Ngata didn’t sign his extension with Baltimore until the middle of his sixth season.
For the Bengals. Signing Atkins was a no brainer, and for the price tag, the team came away with a huge win. Not only is Atkins a dominating defensive tackle, but he has also proven himself as dependable by playing every game in his NFL career.
Better yet, Atkins is so good that he makes his teammates better.
Look at Michael Johnson who came off his best season last year with a career high 11.5 sacks. Not to take anything away from Johnson, who has worked hard to improve his game, but lining up next to Atkins who regularly takes on double teams makes life much easier for the outside rushers.
The Bengals are clearly finding their niche in drafting, development and the signing of players in their system. And why not with the type of talent they have produced the past several years? If the team keeps up this kind of player development, their relevancy in the AFC north will continue for several years.