Since joining the Cincinnati Bengals through the 2010 NFL draft, defensive tackle Geno Atkins has generated 17.5 quarterback sacks in 40 career games, taking the league by the proverbial nuts and saying, "mine are bigger."
Atkins originally signed a four-year rookie contract (standard for non-first rounders at the time) in 2010 and currently signed through next season with a base salary of $540,000 this year and $575,000 in 2013.
Joel Corry, a former player agent and current contributor for National Football Post, writes Atkins is one of the most underpaid players in the NFL, but could demand something north of $10 million a season on his second contract.
After leading the NFL’s defensive tackles (along with Tommy Kelly) with 7.5 sacks last year, the 2010 fourth round pick’s 7 sacks at the halfway point of the season put Atkins on pace for the most sacks by a defensive tackle since La’Roi Glover notched 17 sacks in 2000. Atkins, who could become the best 3-technique defensive tackle since Warren Sapp, is in the third year of a four-year rookie contract that pays him $540,000 this year and $1.408 million next year. Defensive tackles that can consistently put pressure on quarterbacks are rare commodities which are normally paid near the top of the interior defensive lineman market. Atkins’ next contract should exceed $10 million per year and could approach Haloti Ngata’s deal ($61 million, 5 years, $35 million guaranteed).
At last report the Bengals were inside the top-five with at least $15 million available to them under the salary cap. Though some will endlessly demand that that money be used on every free agent available, no matter the value of said investment and the return it generates, the Bengals are faced with several decisions holding onto their own.
Along with Atkins and Carlos Dunlap becoming free agents after next season (extensions tend to be less-costly than free agent deals, especially with great young players), the Bengals have decisions to make for guys this year, like Andre Smith and Michael Johnson, among more contract-friendly players like Adam Jones, Brian Leonard, Mike Nugent, Rey Maualuga, Brandon Tate, etc..