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Breaking Down Defensive End Contracts Signed During Free Agency

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The Cincinnati Bengals signed three defensive ends into the 2013 season, all of whom were Bengals free agents. How does their contracts allow for more spending beyond 2013?

Andy Lyons

+ DEFENSIVE LINE: Heading into the offseason Robert Geathers, Wallace Gilberry, Michael Johnson and Pat Sims were unrestricted free agents, leaving Cincinnati with a sleepless to-do list prior to the 2013 NFL draft. Leaving Jamaal Anderson, Carlos Dunlap and DeQuin Evans as the team's only signed defensive ends would have issued criminal charges of neglect. Even with the approaching draft, personnel would be an issue.

Clearly it was one of the first things they addressed during the offseason.

Cincinnati began March by franchising Michael Johnson, then signing Geathers and Gilberry to three-year deals soon after. Cincinnati wanted Geathers for more than his play on the field, which has drawn justified frustration with a perception that lacks production. Geathers signed a three-year deal worth $9.5 million, with a significant number of bonus dollars applied to the first-year.

"Robert brings us not just fine and consistent play, but leadership and experience," said head coach Marvin Lewis during the announcement. "He's a big part of our success with his own play, and I know our younger guys have talked about how he's made them more effective players. We are glad he has chosen to remain a Bengal."

Gilberry, on the other hand, was an effective pass rusher that rotated across the defensive line, generating 6.5 quarterback sacks, which ranked third on the team.

"Gil came in and helped us right away last season," said defensive line coach Jay Hayes. "He's an active guy with a nose for making plays. We're glad to have him back, and to get him this year in time for a full run in our offseason program."

Pat Sims departed for Oakland but the team had already implemented a contingency with second-round pick Devon Still and third-round selection Brandon Thompson.

"We've got a lot of draft picks, we've got a lot of young players and some great depth in spots," Lewis said during league meetings last weekend. "We can afford to allow a Pat Sims to move on, man, it's time. We've got two guys we drafted last year [Devon Still and Brandon Thompson] and I'm really feeling good about letting those guys get in there and have an opportunity to play."

Cincinnati has assigned $27.425 million over three years to the three defensive ends they've signed in the past month, including Michael Johnson's franchise tag number.

Michael Johnson One $11.175 Million $11.175 Million
Robert Geathers Three $9.5 Million $3.25 Million
Wallace Gilberry Three $6.75 Million $2.55 Million

Based on how the contract was written, Geathers' three-year deal can essentially become a one-year contract. Though he's scheduled to earn $5.35 million in '14 and '15 combined, most of his dead money is applied to the first year, leaving little to no penalty if the Bengals release the veteran defensive end after the 2013 season. Gilberry faces a similar scenario with a 2013 roster bonus three times higher than his signing bonus, applying only $600,000 in dead money in '14 and '15 combined; the remaining portion of his signing bonus.

With first-year roster bonuses, signing bonuses and Michael Johnson's franchise number, 63.4 percent of the team's new money spent on defensive ends this month will be spent in 2013, leaving over $10 million in 2014 and 2015 combined.

Hello, A.J. Green.