The Cincinnati Bengals have relied heavily on Carlos Dunlap to anchor the edge for many years now, and that’s not changing anytime soon.
Let’s look back on Dunlap’s career in Cincinnati and where he stands heading into his eighth season in Cincinnati.
Hometown: North Charleston, SC
Experience: 8th-year player in 2017
Draft status: Second round pick in 2010
In 2017, Dunlap will have a base salary of $5,350,000, including a workout bonus of $300,000. He will have a cap hit of $7,250,000 and a dead cap value of $1,600,000 if released, according to Spotrac.
Defensive end is viewed as one of the Bengals’ few major questions heading into next season, but that’s because of depth and there being no other proven pass-rusher to pair with Dunlap, who’s quietly become one of the best in the business. Michael Johnson is almost a lock to start with Dunlap, though, he may not be deserving of that honor.
Dunlap, who is heading into his eighth NFL season, finished 2016 with eight sacks, three forced fumbles, 49 tackles, and a career-high 15 pass deflections, which led all NFL defensive linemen. Dunlap became the first defensive lineman ever to lead the Bengals in pass deflections and had nearly twice as many deflections as any other lineman. All of the NFL players with more deflections were cornerbacks. He also finished last year as Pro Football Focus’ 15th-ranked edge defender.
That earned Dunlap a Pro Bowl selection as an alternate, the second of his seven NFL seasons. He also played in the 2016 all-star game (following the 2015 season) after enjoying the best season of his career, racking up a career-high 13.5 sacks to go with 55 tackles and two forced fumbles. Those 13.5 sacks were also a team-high and the fourth most of any NFL player in 2015. That earned him a spot on the NFL Top 100 Players show as the 70th-ranked player, though he was left off the player-made ranking this year.
Dunlap has done all of this while slowly growing into the great edge defender he’s become. He began his career as a quality pass-rusher in a situational role during his rookie season of 2009. Injuries would plague Dunlap for much of his next two seasons before he finally began putting it all together in 2013, which became the first of four-straight seasons in which he’s played in every game. During that span, he’s racked up 37 sacks, the most of any Bengal during that span. He’s also become a good run defender, racking up 228 tackles and 11 forced fumbles.
Now, Dunlap will look to shoulder the workload on the edge while hopefully getting some support for young talents like Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson.
There is virtually no chance Dunlap is cut this year or in 2018. The question is whether the Bengals will give him a contract extension at some point in the near future. He’s under contract through 2018, but he’ll be a 30-year-old free agent come March of 2019.
Dunlap probably will have several more good years in the NFL, into his 30s, so the Bengals would be wise to extend him sooner rather than later. For now, his roster spot is as secure as any player’s.
Odds: 99.9 percent.