While Training Camp can be a fun to for the fans, it can be a frustrating time for the NFL teams. They have to worry about injuries, rookies, off the field drama, and now-a-days, players sitting out for new contracts. It’s frustrating for both sides when players do that. Luckily for the Bengals, despite having 2 stars(Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap) on contract year, they don’t have to worry about them sitting out, as they are participating in Training Camp. Both the Bengals and the Players want to get a new contract done. Both Atkins and Dunlap are awesome players, and both should be re-signed. It’d be a dream scenario for the Bengals if they could, and they probably can. But even if they can, they need to have a higher priority of whom to re-sign first. So who should be the highest priority? I’m going to give an argument for both players, than give a “final verdict” of who should be a higher priority.
Geno Atkins is an elite player. He is arguably the 2nd best defensive tackle in the NFL. Between destroying Watson, or just making a running back kick outside on an inside run, Geno Atkins can do everything. He recorded 9 sacks last year. And for a defensive tackle, that’s great. He’s consistently providing pressure. Atkins is a do-it-all defensive tackle.
It’s also worth noting that the Bengals don’t really have a person behind him. Atkins is a defensive tackle for the Bengals 4-3 defense. In that defense, you have a nose tackle type guy, who’s more of a run stuffer, and a defensive tackle who can both stop the run and rush the pass. Atkins is obviously the guy who can do both. Bengals have a couple of young nose tackle players who are on the rise, but don’t have anyone to replace Geno with.
With being an elite player and not having a capable backup if he leaves, Geno Atkins should for sure be the highest priority for the Bengals to re-sign.
Dunlap is a rare player. Defensive ends are one of the most important positions on defense. So keeping a really good one is important. If you ask Dunlap to do something, odds are he can do it. He of course is a good pass rusher, as he can get to the QB with a lot of different moves/technique. He is consistent against the run, good about setting the edge. He’s also a fundamental tackler. But he has one skill set that a lot of defensive ends don’t have; the capability of knocking down passes at the line of scrimmage. Since 2016, Dunlap has led all of defensive ends in batted down passes with 20.
If Bengals keep Dunlap, they have potential to have one of the best defensive end duos in the NFL. Bengals have a lot of young talent with their defensive ends. They have Carl Lawson, who led all rookies in sacks with 8.5. They have a high potential player in Willis, and a a 3rd round rookie in Hubbard. If they keep Dunlap, that group has a chance to be THE BEST defensive ends group in the NFL in the next couple of years, Dunlap is a really good player who’s very valuable to this team.
So who should they make the higher priority?
The answer is pretty clear: Geno Atkins.
There’s a couple reasons for this. For starter, Geno is just the better player. Geno is elite, while Dunlap is very good. Teams should always keep their elite players. Also worth noting the amazing depth at the defensive tackle position. After Dunlap, the Bengals have a lot of defensive ends, such as Lawson, Willis and Hubbard. So if Dunlap leaves, they have players ready. While for a defensive tackle, they have no one who can take over Atkins spot. That pressure up the middle Atkins bring is very important for the Bengals defense.
So with the lack of depth at defensive tackle, the importance Atkins brings, and the fact that Atkins is flat out better than Dunlap, Geno Atkins should be a higher priority to re-sign.
Now with that being said, they should re-sign both. That’d be the dream scenario. But you need to set priorities when it comes to this stuff, and Atkins should be the higher priority.