Bengals spend big, give historic deal to Geno Atkins and big extension to Carlos Dunlap

Frank Schwab
Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins signed a historic contract extension. (AP)
Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins signed a historic contract extension. (AP)

The Cincinnati Bengals don’t have the reputation of spending a lot on their players. To put it politely.

But with the 2018 season coming up fast, the Bengals wrote big checks to two of their best defenders on Tuesday. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap got a three-year, $45 million deal. That was a notable deal, but not even the Bengals’ biggest deal of the day.

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Defensive tackle Geno Atkins, a six-time Pro Bowler who has been the best Bengals defender for many years, signed a deal that has never been given to a non-quarterback past 30 years old.

Geno Atkins’ deal is massive

The Bengals are giving a huge deal to Atkins, who turned 30 on March 28.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Atkins’ four-year deal is worth $65.3 million. The $16.3 million average is the highest ever for a non-quarterback who is past his 30th birthday, Schefter said.

It’s not just the average that makes it a bit of a shocking deal. Atkins will get $25.5 million in the first year, a massive figure for any player, much less a defensive tackle. Schefter also reported more than half of the deal, $37.5 million, will come in the first two seasons.

Atkins is a great player, but that’s a huge deal for him given his age and the fact that he’s not considered on the same level of someone like the Rams’ Aaron Donald. That’s not to say Atkins hasn’t been among the best defensive players in the NFL at times — he has been first-team All-Pro two times — but it’s a big contract number. Especially when you consider that it comes from the Bengals.

Bengals invest heavily in their front seven

Dunlap got $15 million per season, Schefter reported, a huge number as well. Dunlap has been a consistent pass rusher for the Bengals for eight seasons. He has 64.5 sacks over his career, and has made two Pro Bowls. While Dunlap hasn’t turned 30 years old yet, he will next February.

The Bengals’ front seven has been fantastic in the preseason. It’s clearly a strength of the team, especially with the development of second-year edge rusher Carl Lawson. Cincinnati realized that and invested in two of its most important defenders.

Cincinnati doesn’t give out a lot of huge contracts. Some of the biggest free agents to change teams the past few seasons have been those leaving Cincinnati. However, the Bengals were going to make sure Atkins and Dunlap don’t go anywhere.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!