The Cincinnati Bengals, unlike the Pittsburgh Steelers, have a tendency historically to hang on to the familiar for as long as possible. For Pittsburgh, however, that was generally because it worked. That hasn’t always been the case in Cincinnati. With a new regime in place (for two years now, admittedly), however, we are seeing an increased rate of turnover.
Last season, they parted with long-time defensive end Carlos Dunlap via trade. This offseason, they are expected to part with A.J. Green, one of the greatest players in the history of their franchise, as he hits free agency. How much longer will Pro Bowler Geno Atkins last?
Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin (the Bengals’ equivalent to general manager, since they have none with that formal title) didn’t sound overly sure that a long-time arrangement is in the cards for the Bengals and Atkins, who has two more years on his contract after signing a four-year extension n 2018 for $62.5 million.
“We’ll see as we go”, he told reporters yesterday in a press conference about Atkins’ future. “We’ll see what, if any, of the room we need to do some other things. We’ll see. It’s a fluid situation. I don’t have any updates on it right now. I know we’ve got high regard and hold him in high esteem. He’s been a Bengal his whole career and we’ll see if we can keep that going.”
Though Cincinnati is estimated to have more than $40 million in the way of cap space no matter where the salary cap figure comes in, Atkins is due $14.7 million against the cap this year, including $11.7 million in base salary, plus another $500,000 in per-game roster and workout bonuses.
He has a base salary of nearly $13 million in 2022. If he were to be released, it would clear nearly $9 million in cap space after roster displacement and proration acceleration, or more for 2021 if he is made a post-June cut.
While most of his season was affected by a shoulder injury, Atkins’ role in the defense also changed, and he was shifted to more of a rotational support role—without a lot of seeming logic behind it. Rather than release, he could possibly be traded or work out a new contract as he enters his mid-30s.
“I have nothing but high regard for Geno Atkins”, Tobin said. “He’s a home-grown product, a real success story, and a guy that I’ve loved watching grow over the years. And he gave us what he had last year, but not near what he’s used to and what we’re used to seeing”.
Cincinnati does have some depth, and will be getting some help in the form of returnees from injury and opt-out. D.J. Reader was a splash signing last year, becoming the highest-paid nose tackle in NFL history. Mike Daniels came in late as well.