Updated: 7-16-13, 10:30 a.m.
The last day to sign right end Michael Johnson in 2013 for the long term turned out to be the first day of left end Carlos Dunlap's long haul with the Bengals for what is believed to be a $40 million extension.
When the Bengals announced it Tuesday, they called it a five-year extension as Dunlap heads into the last year of his rookie deal and is now a Bengal through the 2018 season. He's expected to be on a media teleconference call later Tuesday.
"One of our key offseason goals was to continue signing and extending our key players, and the signing of Carlos is another positive step," head coach Marvin Lewis said in a news release. "Over his three seasons with us, Carlos has continued to progress and develop. He has demonstrated the ability to be productive as a three-down player, and we are glad to have him committed to be a part of our future."
Even though the Bengals didn't sign Johnson to a long-term deal, the Bengals are showing their faith in the young core of what many believe to be the NFL's best defensive line. With Johnson scheduled to make $11.1 million this season as the franchise player and Dunlap reportedly set to secure $18.7 million over the next year, according to Pro Football Talk, the Bengals are paying their young ends nearly $30 million for this season.
With the Bengals now unable to sign Johnson until after the season, it's believed they'll make a big push to extend two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins before the regular season and before he hits the market next March. Historically, the Bengals have finished off extensions from now until the week before the regular-season starts. The week before the 2011 season they announced extensions for cornerback Leon Hall, left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center Kyle Cook.
The Bengals also spent time in the past week—and as late as Monday afternoon—attempting to negotiate a long-term deal with their franchise player, Johnson. The Monday deadline for when franchise free agents can be signed in 2013 passed without Johnson getting a long-term deal, but the sides can keep talking even though they can't sign a deal until after the season as Johnson works on a one-year, $11.1 million contract.
Indications are both sides want to keep a line open, but when news broke an hour after the 4 p.m. deadline that Dunlap had agreed to an extension putting him over the $6 million per year category, it looks to be a difficult task for the Bengals to be able to fit two mega deals at end after re-upping Robert Geathers and Wallace Gilberry to three-year deals back in March.
The 6-6, 280-pound Dunlap, a second-round pick in 2010, has had a career marked by athletically spectacular and gamebreaking plays that conjure up a tight end or an NBA power forward. He has scored touchdowns on a 35-yard fumble recovery and a 14-yard interception return, and was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week last year when he had two sacks and strips of Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to force field goals in a seven-point victory.
The deal also figures to add to his snaps. In two career starts Dunlap has 20 career sacks in 38 games after coming up with six last season.
The Bengals were talking to Johnson agent Rick Smith up until about 90 minutes before the deadline and were pushing to get something done on the defensive line. It's unclear if Dunlap's big deal precludes reaching an agreement with Johnson after the season, but it clearly puts Atkins into the wings.
No doubt the Bengals would love to keep both, but the salary cap may not allow it with the inside guy like Atkins and his eight figures looming. Dunlap and Johnson are both dangerous pass rushers heading into the elite category with different styles. Johnson had a career year with 11.5 sacks, giving him 23 in 64 games. According to Pro Football Focus, Johnson led the Bengals D-line with 923 steel-belted snaps and Dunlap was fifth with 655. According to the web site, Dunlap had 14 quarterback hits, 34 QB hurries and 34 stops while Johnson had eight hits, 34 hurries and 33 stops. Dunlap and Atkins led the team with four forced fumbles each. Dunlap and Gilberry led the team with three fumble recoveries and Dunlap led the line with four passes defensed, followed by Johnson's three.
And with Johnson turning just 26 and Dunlap 24 this past February, it's why the Bengals hope they can eventually somehow keep both.