Like Johnson, Carlos Dunlap and DeQuin Evans are in contract years as well. Even though he fell 3.5 shy of his rookie performance with 6.0 sacks this year, Dunlap did have a breakout season in 2012 in a different category: tackles. With 40 tackles last season, 33 of which were solo, Dunlap not only came close to matching his total tackle count for the first two seasons (24 and 23, respectfully), but he was the second highest in total tackles out of defensive ends (only Johnson was higher with 52) and 10th overall on the team. Similar to Johnson, Dunlap’s body of work is starting to speak for itself, and he is practically a lock to make the roster. Meanwhile, Evans is practice squad fodder at best, but with the wealth of talent floating in OTAs right now, the Bengals coaching staff will be looking to squirrel as much of it away in those seven slots; they may not be room for Evans even there.
Then there is the curious case of Jamaal Anderson and Wallace Gilberry. Anderson was brought in last off-season after being released by the Atlanta Falcons where he was the 8th overall draft pick in 2007. Similar to Johnson in size, Anderson lines up at 6’6”, 280 lbs and figured to form a ‘twin towers bookend’ approach to the defensive line, but a torn quad tendon put him on the IR for 2012 in Week 2. That injury led to the signing of Gilberry to fill the rotational void. A bit smaller and stockier, the 6’2”, 275 lbs Gilberry had been released during final roster cuts in Tampa Bay where he had landed after coming off a sub-par 2011 season in Kansas City, which coincided with the final year of his rookie contract with them. Gilberry was remade in 2012, notching 6.5 sacks, third for the Bengals. While Gilberry was rewarded with a humble contract of $1.5M annually, it does secure him through 2015. Anderson, on the other hand, is due $2.5M this year, but will be a free agent at the end of the year as his two-year contract concludes with the 2013 season.
Of course there is Margus Hunt, the raw talent from Southern Methodist University that the Bengals drafted 53rd overall in this past NFL Draft. Recently signed to an undisclosed 4-year deal, one has to assume that “The Eastern Block” will make the final roster, barring any major setbacks or deficiencies during camp or preseason play. The final and unlikely mention in this group is LB/DE hybrid project, Dontay Moch. Moch was rumored to be working out at the defensive end position in order to find his niche in this talent-laden Bengals’ Defense. He has a lot of work to do in order to overcome his blank stat slate from two non-existent seasons, however; if he’s able to showcase his versatility at both positions, he may earn a spot somewhere between the linebackers and the defensive line. Notwithstanding, there is still a lot of summer left and with his net cast wide, Moch is more primed to fill a role vacated by injury than earn one himself at this point.