Rumors have been floated that if the Bengals could only sign one defensive end right now, it would be Dunlap. Whether this makes sense or not is mute. The fact that Dunlap commendably tripled his solo tackles this season, going from 11 in 2011 to 33 in 2012, and doubled his overall tackles, raising 23 to 40 means little. So does pointing out that Johnson’s solo numbers hover around 30 for the past three years, or that he had more production getting to the quarterback last year with his 11.5 total sacks than Dunlap at 6.0. Delving into these contemporary statistics furthers the lunacy of the comparison considering the timing; this again is why the Bengals have opted let the argument drop, at least contractually.
Let a few general scenarios play out. First and most widely assumed, the Bengals find themselves in this same dilemma a year from now, however; both players would have to put up similar numbers next season, which would be no easy task. The second and more likely scenario would be that one player will degenerate a bit and another will advance, making the choice next year a far easier one, and all will forgive that a large contract was not awarded to the regressive player.
To further this prognostication, it is also widely presumed that a fifth defensive end, Margus Hunt, will make the roster along with veteran Robert Geathers, both of whom could eat into Dunlap and Johnson’s statistics now that both are marked threats for opposing offensive lines. Also, a third and less tolerable possibility to consider is that one of these players ends up on the IR.
Certainly, both may be resigned next off-season should the unthinkable happen, but if the expense is the void their departure from the active roster in 2013 would bring, then most fans would prefer that situation not come to pass.