The likelihood of Geno Atkins leaving the Cincinnati Bengals is very slim. After all, the team saved a lot of their salary cap money this season so it would carry over into 2014 for the expressed purpose of having enough to keep the star defensive tackle in orange and black. Still, as the NFL has proven in the past anything can happen. Through new deals and franchise tags a player can somehow slip into the open market if the right situation presents itself. Should that happen, where could the All-Pro defensive tackle land in 2014?
Cincinnati Bengals not very active on Atkins negotiations
One can say time is on the side of the Cincinnati Bengals. Their star defensive tackle Geno Atkins is under contract for the year, giving them all that time to work out a new deal. It shouldn’t be very hard. They have more than enough money to do it. The problem is the longer they take the greater the risk becomes of something going wrong. Franchise tag aside Atkins is the most critical part of the Bengals defense. His 12.5 sacks last season was the best by far of any defensive tackle in the league. It is the kind of interior pressure other teams salivate over in NFL free agency. Among certain possibilities that might hold up a deal is the situation with defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson. Both are scheduled to enter the open market in 2014 as well. If they put together solid seasons it will stretch the amount of money Cincinnati can spend on Atkins. It all comes down to demands. Another All-Pro season pretty much affords Geno the right to demand the biggest defensive tackle contract in league history. Considering that was $100 million paid to Albert Haynesworth, it should compel the Bengals to make a deal sooner than later.
Kyle Love and Brandon Deadrick are not solutions for Gus Bradley
Looking ahead for the moment at the improbable but still possible chance Atkins hits free agency, where does he end up? One surprise player in that bidding war is the Jacksonville Jaguars. Based on early projections the team will have at least over $35 million in salary cap space by 2014, provided they don’t extend any of their current players. Head coach Gus Bradley came in with a clear plan in mind and thus far has executed it. Being the defensive coach he is he spent a good deal of the off-season rebuilding the league-worst unit through free agency and the draft. His main focus was defensive end and the secondary. The area he left somewhat overlooked was defensive tackle. The Jaguars did add some nice depth in former Patriots Kyle Love and Brandon Deadrick but they are not permanent solutions to the problem. Tyson Alualu, the 10th overall pick in 2010, will shift to defensive end in hopes of overcoming three disappointing seasons at tackle. This leaves the area rather thin in terms of proven producers. By that notion it should make them big players for Geno Atkins. His interior presence would be a natural fit in the Bradley defense and give Jacksonville something to really rally around for the first time in years.
Will it happen? Nobody can know for sure. Is it possible? History says Bengals fans should worry until that dotted line is signed.