Updated: 1:30 p.m.
When they broke in as kids, the young Bengals pass rushers called themselves "The Fisher Price Package." Now after two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins's mega $55 million extension was announced Monday, they are officially all grown up and need a new name.
With left end Carlos Dunlap hauling in a $40 million extension just before training camp and right end Michael Johnson the franchise player getting $11 million this year, how about "The Fortune 500 Front" or "The Wall Street Wall?"
"You're going to have come up with that one," Dunlap said. "It's motivation. If you haven't got yours done, then it motivates you to put in the extra work to get it done and vice versa; you know what's there for you once you put in the hard work: put it out there on good tape."
Dunlap briefly ducked into the joint news conference held by Atkins and head coach Marvin Lewis and when Atkins talked about how the coaches helped develop him from a pass rusher into a run player and pass rusher, Dunlap stood up and proclaimed "a dominant run player" and left.
Or as Lewis said in a statement released by the club, "Geno's extension is exciting news. It puts the issue of his future behind him and the club and allows his focus to be on football and on a great start to our season."
And the spare-speaking Atkins had the same vibe.
"Now I can focus on football," Atkins said," and help the team go to the Super Bowl."
Atkins, 25, regarded by many as the best three technique in football, led all tackles in sacks last season with 12.5 and is on a pace similar to 2013 Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp. Sapp had 96.5 sacks in 198 games (.487 per game) during his 13 seasons and Atkins has 23 in his first 48 (.479) in three seasons. That would give him 95 in 198 games.
With the Bengals opening their season in Chicago this Sunday, the Atkins deal makes it the most valuable photo shoot in franchise history and caps their offseason moves in which they committed more than $180 million in total dollars in either free agency or re-signing their own players.
The Bengals have what is believed to be the highest paid defensive line in the NFL. Along with the top three, nose tackle Domata Peko at about $5 million per year and backup ends Robert Geathers and Wallace Gilberry at about $3 million per year.
Atkins, Geathers and Gilberry are all repped by the Atlanta firm headed by Pat Dye Jr. Dye and Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn hammered out what is being characterized as the second-highest defensive tackle deal in history. Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata signed a 5-year, $61 million extension in 2011.
Atkins gets $18 million this season, $22 million over the first six months of the new deal and $36 million in new money over the first three years of the extension.
That means the Bengals have spent about $140 million in cash this season over the $123 million salary cap. The Atkins extension is the first part of a plan designed to keep the club's back-to-back playoff team intact in the face of some huge signings. The Bengals rolled about $10 million from this year's cap into next year's cap, their first shot at re-signing two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton, and while Atkins may have carved into it some they've got the first piece secured.
The Atkins negotiations took months and while there were some serious lulls, the sides never stopped communicating. It looked like they had stalled out in June, and even as late as Cincinnati's trip to Atlanta early last month the two sides didn't appear to be having substantive progress.
"We've been negotiating for months, but our dialouge really picked up these last few weeks," Dye said in a Monday morning statement. "The Bengals were ultimately very fair given Geno's alternative salary scenarios. Katie Blackburn and the Bengals organization deserve a lot of credit for being proactive in securing the long-term services of a great player, who is only 25 and still ascending.
"Geno is also an outstanding citizen and teammate and very deserving of this opportunity."