The elephant on the practice field in training camp so far has been the contract status of star defensive end Carlos Dunlap.
Whether he leaves after this season or not, Dunlap will go down as one of the best defensive ends in Bengals history. Even though his contract expires after the season, the Bengals are hoping they can get him to stay for a few more seasons.
Dunlap skipped part of OTAs while a new deal was being negotiated, but thankfully, he is not holding out during training camp. Dunlap’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, is at practice, though, which is a sure sign talks are heating up.
Katherine Terrell of ESPN reported that Rosenhaus was at the practice field on Saturday. She quoted him saying, “When you see him out here, you know he’s doing something. He’s out here for a reason. But there’s no breaking news to give you guys so it is what it is.”
In other words, Dunlap would like to get re-signed, but there has been not much progress so far. Dunlap says he wants to finish his career a Bengal, but he’s letting Rosenhaus do the talking.
Carlos Dunlap: "I would love to finish my career here as a Bengal" #Bengals pic.twitter.com/zJyn0i1q0g— Mark Slaughter (@MarkVSlaughter) July 29, 2018
Profootballtalk.com’s Michael David Smith noted that Dunlap would be the rare veteran playing out the entirety of his contract.
Carlos Dunlap is heading into the fifth and final year of his current contract. It's pretty rare for an NFL player to play all five years of a five-year deal. Usually he over-performs and gets a new deal or underperforms and gets cut. https://t.co/THJcAirgqG— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) July 29, 2018
Veterans usually play either over-perform or underperform, but in either case rarely play out their entire contracts. Dunlap falls into the over-performing category, so Smith would probably expect him to get an raise.
Former Bengals receiver Andrew Hawkins corrects Smith, explaining why Dunlap’s situation is different because he plays for the Bengals.
Except in Cincinnati*— Andrew Hawkins (@Hawk) July 29, 2018
They usually sign their own guys to what are described as "Below market deals" , but players tend to play the majority of the deal out. Once the Brown family values at a price, they rarely second guess it. https://t.co/5CWX4lES27
Thats exactly what Im saying! The alternative is players signing "BIGGER" deals elsewhere and getting cut with 2-3 years of big money left on the deal. In the long run, because they generally honor the life of their contracts, you end up making more in Cincy ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ https://t.co/cGEaFsLWWh— Andrew Hawkins (@Hawk) July 30, 2018
In other words, the Bengals sign their own players to deals that aren’t considered to be the market value. For comparison, Dunlap’s contract is about half of what veterans Calais Campbell of the Jaguars and Everson Griffen of the Vikings are getting on their deals. So Dunlap is definitely making “below market” money.
But Dunlap might be playing out the last year of his contract like Hawkins says the Bengals are known to do. Dunlap’s plan is just to go to training camp and maybe even play a few games while Rosenhaus is getting his deal done.
It probably helps that Dunlap will be making a $7 million dollar salary in 2018. While this is on the low end of what a player of his caliber can be making, it’s still the highest salary of his career so far. This goes to show that Hawkins was right about the Brown family. They don’t second guess their price, so they are rarely caught overpaying.
Hawkins, who played for the Bengals from 2011-2013, has had firsthand experience dealing with Brown and the Bengals organization before he left to sign with the Browns.
The Bengals are hoping that Dunlap’s career in Cincinnati ends on a different note. Dunlap said he wants to retire as a Bengal, and mostly everyone would love to see that happen. It's up to Rosenhaus and Brown to settle on the dollars and cents.