There are few players on the Cincinnati Bengals’ roster more impressive than Geno Atkins. Since being drafted by the team in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, he has earned five Pro Bowl appearances, one for every year he has been in the league, minus an injury plagued 2013 season. He was voted First-Team All-Pro twice (2012 and 2015) and Second-team All-Pro once (2011).
In seven seasons, he has recorded an astounding 250 total tackles, 52 sacks, eight forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and seven pass deflections. His 52 career sacks rank second among all active defensive tackles in the NFL, behind 12-year veteran Kevin Williams. At his current pace, Atkins should total 89 sacks by his 12th year in the NFL, only 7.5 behind the all-time NFL sack leader at the position, Warren Sapp.
Needless to say, Atkins’ role with the team is safe. He is arguably the most important player on the Bengals’ defense and certainly one of the most important players on the entire roster.
Weight: 302 pounds
Position: Defensive tackle
Hometown: Pembroke Pines, Florida
Experience: Eighth year
Atkins’ current deal runs through 2018. In 2017, he will earn a base salary of $7,300,000, while carrying a cap hit of $10,600,000 and a dead cap value of $3,000,000. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2019, according to Spotrac.
The Bengals stole Atkins in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Questions about his size and power caused teams to sleep on him through the first three rounds of the draft, despite his impressive production in college. However, the Bengals appreciated his production and relentless motor and never looked back.
In his rookie season, Atkins was active in all 16 games, but only started once. He still managed to record 16 total tackles, three sacks, and a pass deflection, despite limited time on the field. However, from 2011 on he was a regular member of the starting lineup.
Atkins made his first Pro Bowl in 2011, his second season and first year as a full-time starter. His 50 total tackles, 7.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery for a touchdown, and three pass deflections put him on the map that year. But, it was his 2012 season that still stands as his absolute best. 54 total tackles, 12.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and two pass deflections show exactly why he struck fear into the hearts of opposing offenses and why he continues to do so today.
Atkins got off to a good start in 2013, recording 20 total tackles and six sacks in the first nine games. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL against the Miami Dolphins and was lost for the season. He returned for another Pro Bowl campaign in 2014, although he recorded his lowest sack total since his rookie season (three) and wasn’t the same player as he adjusted to life after a torn ACL.
At the time, there was some question as to whether he would ever be the same after his injury, given the relatively weak performance in 2014. But, he charged back in 2015 with 42 total tackles, 11 sacks, and a forced fumble, good for his fourth Pro Bowl appearance, and followed it up with another Pro Bowl season in 2016.
Atkins is an absolutely vital member of the Bengals’ defense and at 29-years-old, he should have plenty of great seasons left in the tank. With fellow starting defensive tackle Domata Peko leaving for the Denver Broncos this offseason, expect more pressure on Atkins to occupy a leadership role on the defensive line. However, don’t expect his level of play to change much. He is and always has been a critical presence in the trenches.
Roster odds: 100 percent.