The Bengals have done a pretty damn good job in the draft over the last few years. With an exception of a wasted pick here or there, they have gotten solid production out of their new guys. Due to the recent rookie wage scale which was part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams don't have to pay their first-round picks $30 million anymore. Instead, they pay a first-round pick $3 or $4 million and then, as long as that player earns it, they'll get their big contract in a few years.
Because of the Bengals success in the draft, they have players like Geno Atkins, A.J. Green, Andy Dalton and Michael Johnson, among others, who are actually outperforming their contract, meaning the Bengals are getting great production on the field for very little money.
Of course, it goes both ways. However, for the most part, the Bengals are in good shape.
The biggest plus for the Bengals when it comes to value, of course, is Geno Atkins. His cap hit in 2012 was just $660,000, but, according to the folks at Pro Football Focus, he played at a $10 million level. That's a difference of $9.3 million in the Bengals favor.
If you've read a bit of Pro Football Focus over the past year then you'll know that to us (and really anyone who has watched a substantial amount of football) Atkins was the best defensive tackle in the game. Bona fide brilliance, he picked up 28 defensive stops in the run game (only Jurrell Casey had more among DTs) and 78 combined sacks, hits, and hurries (58 was the next most among his peers). A season for the ages and for such little money.
A.J. Green is next on the list. In 2012 his cap hit was $4.5 million but he played at a $9.8 million level. Again, that's a $5.3 million difference in the Bengals favor.
Adam Jones is next on the list with a difference of $4.9 million as he played at a $6 million level and his actual cap hit was $1.1 million.
And then there's these guys:4. Carlos Dunlap, DE - Cap: $850k, PBV: $5.5m, Value Differential: +$4.6m
5. Terence Newman, CB - Cap: $1.6m, PBV: $5.8m, Value Differential: +$4.3m
6. Andy Dalton, QB - Cap: $1.2m, PBV: $5.3m, Value Differential: +$4.1m
7. Vontzae Burflict, LB - Cap: $390k, PBV: $3.6m, Value Differential: +$3.2m
8. Kevin Zeitler, OG - Cap: $1.4m, PBV: $3.9m, Value Differential: +$2.5m
9. Clint Boling, OG - Cap: $575k, PBV: $2.9m, Value Differential: +$2.3m
10. Michael Johnson, DE - Cap: $1.6m, PBV: $3.8m, Value Differential: +$2.1m
What about the guys on the other side of the equation? Well, they're exactly who you would expect them to be.
First on the list is defensive end Robert Geathers, whose contract in 2012 was a cap hit of $6.2 million, but, according to PFF, he played at a $825,000 value, meaning the Bengals lost $5.4 million.
Geathers played an awful lot of regular season snaps (660 snaps) without making an awful lot of plays. Moving inside in the nickel package on obvious passing situations, what defines Geathers as a player is his constant inability to generate pressure - he earned the sixth-lowest grade of all defensive ends rushing the passer.
Right behind Geathers is Nate Clements, who had a cap hit of $5.5 million, but played at a $950,000 level (negative $4.6 million), and right behind him is Domata Peko, whose contract was a cap hit of $4.8 million, but played at a $942,000 level (negative $3.8 million.
And then there were these guys.
4. Thomas Howard, LB - Cap: $3.3m, PBV: $50k, Value Differential: -$3m
5. Leon Hall, CB - Cap: $8.5m, PBV: $5.6m, Value Differential: -$2.9m
6. Jason Allen, CB - Cap: $3.6m, PBV: $825k, Value Differential: -$2.8m
7. Jamaal Anderson, DE - Cap: $2.8m, PBV: $90k, Value Differential: -$2.7m
8. Kyle Cook, OC - Cap: $3.3m, PBV: $700k, Value Differential: -$2.6m
9. BenJarvus Green-Ellis - Cap: $3m, PBV: $1.1m, Value Differential: -$1.8m
10. Andrew Whitworth, OT - Cap: $6.7m, PBV: $4.9m, Value Differential: -$1.8m
Of course, all of these scores are objective, but we can't argue with the majority of their findings.
In the end, the Bengals had a positive team value differential of $6.4 million in 2012, which isn't too shabby.
The Bengals were always at something of an advantage toward being in credit with some of their excellent drafting in recent years. A player like Geno Atkins is worth his weight in gold for what he can do on the field and yet is hardly costing Cincinnati anything. Overall, 31 players earned positive Value Differential's, and 34 earned negative.
Of course, this isn't going to last forever. Guys like Geno Atkins, A.J. Green, Michael Johnson, Andy Dalton and Kevin Zeitler are going to get payed eventually and the Bengals are going to have to fork over large chunks of change to keep them in Cincinnati. As long as their production stays where it is, or goes up, though, it shouldn't be a problem.