The Bengals are working to get a new deal for impending free agent Carlos Dunlap, but what if both sides can’t come to an agreement?
Dunlap is set to be one of the top defensive players to hit the market in 2019 if Cincinnati can’t extend him this year. The two sides have been working on a new deal, and the hope is it gets done soon.
If a deal does not get done, should the Bengals trade Dunlap?
The Bengals have a decision to make on Dunlap’s future with the team. The 29-year-old pass rusher heads into his contract year coming off a 7.5-sack campaign, and while there’s reportedly progress being made to get an extension done, Cincy invested heavily at the position over the past couple of drafts and have Carl Lawson, Jordan Willis, and rookie Sam Hubbard waiting in the wings.
The Panthers could make for a logical trade partner. Carolina does not have the same caliber of pass-rush farm system to rely on, and they’re putting an awful lot of stock in Mario Addison and 38-year-old Julius Peppers to provide consistent pressure off the edge this year. If that squad hopes to get after the likes of Drew Brees and Matt Ryan they’d be behooved to add another veteran pass rusher.
While this trade makes perfect sense for the Panthers, it doesn’t make sense for the Bengals to do it unless they’re getting something big in return, like a second-round draft pick. But that’s almost certainly not going to happen since Dunlap has just one year left on his deal, and no team will want to sacrifice much for an aging pass rusher that could go elsewhere in 2019.
If the Bengals did try to trade Dunlap, it’s possibly they wouldn’t get anything than a low third-round pick at best. We’ve seen good players on expiring deals traded for Day 3 draft picks before, and that’s not going to help the Bengals nearly as much as having Dunlap will, even if it’s just for one more season.
Besides, the Bengals don’t have another complete pass rusher like Dunlap on the roster. Jordan Willis is good in run defense but had just one sack as a rookie (Dunlap has never had fewer than 4.5 in a season).
Carl Lawson has the potential to become a better pass rusher than Dunlap, but the former is still only a situational player that isn’t big enough to hold up in run defense yet.
Sam Hubbard has potential, but at the end of the day, he’s an unproven rookie.
Michael Johnson is on his last legs and is more effective as an interior pass rusher on passing downs.
Now, it’s possible that aforementioned group can grow and help offset the loss of Dunlap in 2019, but it’s hard to see that happening as soon as this year. Even if the Bengals knew Dunlap was going to leave in 2019, there are still too many reasons to keep him vs trading him.
However, if the Bengals have a bad start this year and enter the trade deadline with just two or three wins in their first eight games, perhaps they should consider trading Dunlap for whatever they can at the deadline. But even then, it feels like the best move is to keep Dunlap, even if he becomes a free agent in 2019.
Perhaps the Bengals can still get a deal done with him once he’d be allowed to test the market if a new deal doesn’t come in 2018.