Bengals sign Dunlap to $40 mil extension, franchise-tagged Johnson a goner in 2014
Unfortunately, each of those three players is entering a contract year in 2013, and how much money can you really spend on one unit? Atkins has emerged as one of the premier defensive players in the league, so he'll unquestionably be a focal point of the Bengals' 2014 offseason plans. Reports early on Monday suggested that would leave Dunlap and Johnson to compete for one extension with the Bengals.
The reported competition was supposed to take place during the 2013 season, but the Bengals had already made up their mind as to which pass rusher would stick around in Cincinnati. The Bengals signed Carlos Dunlap to a six-year, $40 million extension on Monday.
Johnson (who had 11.5 sacks last season) put up better numbers than Dunlap (who had 6.0) in 2012, but the Bengals decided to put their money on Dunlap due to his enormous upside. Only having started two games in his three-year career, the 24-year-old Dunlap has registered an impressive 20.0 sacks. He also racked up four forced fumbles in 2012, and even took an interception back for a touchdown. He'll enter 2013 as the Bengals' starting left defensive end, and is a good bet to improve significantly on last season's production.
Johnson received the franchise tag this offseason, so he is currently playing under a one-year agreement worth $11.175 million. Having just invested $40 million in Dunlap while a big-time extension for Atkins is likely coming within the next year, Johnson now appears to be a lock to leave Cincinnati next offseason.
Fortunately for the Bengals, Johnson will have a ton to play for this year. Johnson will be only 28 years old when 2014 free agency gets underway, so if he can put together a second consecutive season with a double-digit sack total, he could be in for a pretty substantial payday.