For the Cincinnati Bengals to maintain one of the league’s best defenses in the next 5+ years, they’ll need to work out a long-term extension for defensive tackle Geno Atkins, which Joe Reedy reports have reached the “informal talks” stage. The bengals are fully prepared to utilize the franchise tag next offseason if a long-term deal isn’t worked out, and will be one of the team’s few leverages in contract negotiations which is probably why Reedy only gives them a 50-50 chance of re-signing him before the start of the year.
Speaking of franchise tag, after defensive end Michael Johnson received it this offseason, he has until July 15th to sign a long-term deal, but there’s been nothing to suggest that will happen. Not only that, but Reedy believes the Bengals will only re-sign one player between MJ and fellow DE Carlos Dunlap. given the team’s dedication to signing Atkins a long-term deal that will likely eat-up the majority of their salary cap next offseason, I’d say they’ll be lucky to keep two of those three players.
With the addition of Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert, the Bengals have three legitimate receiving threats at TE between Jermaine Gresham, Orson Charles, and Eifert. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is already working to expand the playbook to take advantage of that depth:
“We just went from 150 to 200 plays. A three tight-end grouping gives you a whole new set of plays,” Gruden says with a smile. “It may not be that many plays, but it at least gives you another package. As long as they can block effectively, and so far they’ve shown that they can, they just have to get better at it. It all starts in the running game. That’s what is going to give us our options in dropback passing and play-action.”