The Cincinnati Bengals face a number of tough NFL free agency decisions in 2014. Not the least of them centers around the entire defensive line. Among the names involved is defensive end Carlos Dunlap. While not a household name, his growth has been closely watched by coaches in house and abroad. Could he command big money next year?
Bengals focused on Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson
It really isn’t fair to call Carlos Dunlap a bust by any stretch. Perhaps expectations were a little high after he put up 9.5 sacks in his rookie season of 2010. So when he managed only 4 the next year people started to question if he was a one-year wonder. He answered with a respectable 2012 season that featured 6 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and an interception returned for a touchdown. All this he has accomplished while only officially starting two games in his career. It’s fair to wonder what might happen if he got more snaps. At present it doesn’t seem like he might get them in Cincinnati. Focus remains on using their preserved salary cap space to hand new deals to star defensive tackle Geno Atkins and starting defensive end Michael Johnson. They combined for 24 sacks last season, earning their money. Unfortunately that likely won’t leave enough left over for Dunlap, especially if he has a productive 2013.
LaMarr Houston in need of serious support for Oakland
Reggie McKenzie understood the task ahead of him after a rough 4-12 season for the Oakland Raiders. He knew rebuilding the team would be a process and not all the positions could get filled at once. So he pinpointed certain areas to address and left others in the hands of veterans and solid role players. In doing so he has kept the salary cap way down, opening the door to spend lavishly if he chooses next year. First order of business should be to find starter LaMarr Houston some help. Oakland finished 31st in sacks last season and did not draft a defensive lineman until the sixth round. Houston was the most productive and he only had 4.5. Adding to that area has to become top priority for the Raiders unless by some miracle their pick pans out or a pair of undrafted free agents make big-time statements.
Carlos Dunlap is exactly the kind of free agent McKenzie would want: young, hungry and relatively cheap compared to bigger names. It comes down to how much the Bengals are willing to spend to keep him.