Sometimes the biggest news on the start of OTAs is about who isn’t there, rather than who is and what they are doing. The New England Patriots’ lack of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski has certainly drawn media attention. It was news last year when Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell was absent, though it was more than expected this time around.
For the Cincinnati Bengals, the absentee start is Pro Bowl defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who is entering the final season of a six-year deal that he signed in 2013 that was worth $40.7 million. He is due to make $7 million and obviously seems to be hoping to receive another extension before he steps on the field again.
Dunlap, 29, has not missed a game since signing his extension in 2013 and has gone to the Pro Bowl twice. He posted 46 tackles to go along with seven and a half sacks a year ago, adding a forced fumble, an interception, and seven passes defensed. He had a monstrous 15 passes defensed the year before, and in 2015 had a career-high 13 and a half sacks.
Over the course of his eight-year career, he has recorded 361 tackles, 64 and a half sacks, two interceptions, and 16 forced fumbles, with 42 passes defensed. And he has only been a full-time starter for the past five seasons. He started just two games during his first three seasons in the league.
An article from the Cincinnati Enquirer notes that while attendance during OTAs is optional, his absence did cost him a workout bonus worth $300K. Despite the fact that he is not at the Bengals’ facility with his teammates, he has been regularly posting workout videos on his own. He has not been in town throughout the offseason.
Cincinnati has previously talked about it being their intention tot revisit Dunlap’s contract this offseason for an extension, but he is not the only one. His defensive tackler partner, Geno Atkins, is also due a contract extension this offseason. That is two critical pieces right in the heart of their defense.
Unlike Dunlap, however, Atkins is in town, running with the first-team defense. That is not to praise one and cast blame on the other, as they are within their rights to exercise their free will as they see fit. As mentioned, Organized Team Activities are entirely on a voluntary basis.
The veteran’s absence, however, did give rookie third-round pick Sam Hubbard the opportunity to see a lot of quality reps during his first practice with the Bengals’ veterans. The Ohio State product was selected just after the Pittsburgh Steelers traded ahead of them to draft quarterback Mason Rudolph.