Bengals defensive end Robert Geathers recorded 10.5 quarterback sacks during the 2006 season, mostly as a third down pass rushing specialist. On January 10, 2007, the Bengals rewarded Geathers with a six-year contract worth $33.75 million with $12.5 million guaranteed, with at least another $1.25 million linked to incentives with quarterback sacks and Pro Bowl berths. Geathers is projected to make $3.95 million in 2011.
A year later, on March 2, 2008, the Bengals signed free agent Antwan Odom with a five-year deal worth $29.5 million with $11.5 million guaranteed. Odom is projected to make $4.5 million in 2011.
Will either defensive end make the roster in 2011?
Geathers has played 58 regular season games since signing his contract in 2007, recording 10.5 quarterback sacks through the last four seasons -- the same total he recorded in 2006. In his three seasons with the Bengals, Antwan Odom has only played 46% of the team's games since 2008 (competing in 22 of a possible 48 games), recording 11 quarterback sacks during that stretch. Even that is somewhat misleading. If you take away his five-sack performance against the Green Bay Packers, that's six total quarterback sacks in 21 games played for the Bengals over three seasons.
Combined, Geathers and Odom will cost the Bengals $8.45 million in 2011.
During his position review of the defensive line, the Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy believes that only one of the team's veteran defensive ends will return next season.
Along with Geathers and Odom, Carlos Dunlap, Frostee Rucker and Michael Johnson are signed through 2011 (among other noteworthy linemen like Victor Adeyanju and James Ruffin). Jonathan Fanene is an unrestricted free agent who the team likes for his versatility to play any position on the defensive line.
Even after the Collective Bargaining Agreement is resolved, the team will have decisions to make. One of those might be releasing either Geathers or Odom. On the other hand, with a new CBA means that releasing one of player could have a decent salary cap penalty upon release.
Then there's the question of the NFL draft. Will the team look to draft a defensive end, like Da'Quan Bowers to work opposite of Carlos Dunlap?
Based on production alone, it would make sense that the Bengals release either Geathers or Odom, if not both defensive ends. On the other hand, with so much unknown about the CBA (salary caps, penalties) the Bengals might keep both players for a slight comfort of depth at the position. Additionally, if the CBA is finally resolved two weeks before the projected start of the season, how likely would the team be to revamping their roster? In their mind, it might be the safest move keeping both ends on the roster who already know the defense.