There are two interesting parallels to modern day. First, Geathers’ sack totals in his first several seasons were very similar to Johnson’s. Geathers logged 3.0 in 2004, 3.5 in 2005, and 10.5 in 2006. Likewise, Johnson notched 3.0 in 2009, 2.5 in 2010, 6.0 in 2011, and 11.5 in 2012. Second, it is important to remember that Smith was franchised in 2006 rather than signed, a move based in skinflintry that many feel cost the Bengals Eric Steinbach in free agency because the tag was not placed upon him. This bumbling of the priorities between contracts, potential and proven worth in 2006 and 2007 left the Bengals without one of the best guards of the decade and sans a defensive end who went on to earn four consecutive Pro Bowl as well as be recently ranked number 29 of the NFL’s Top 100 players of 2012. In return, Geathers hasn’t posted more than 3.5 sacks in a single season since that break out in 2006, nor has he had more than 20 tackles in a single season since 2007.
To note, this is not a comparison of Geathers and Johnson but merely a comparison of circumstance. However, unlike that 2007 team, the Bengals of 2013 are coming off a winning pedigree and are brimming with not only talent but depth and youth, which doesn’t necessarily make this situation any clearer than its historical juxtaposition. Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins are all still on or at the completion of rookie contracts and while they all show incredible face-of-the-franchise level talent, only Atkins has been a consistent producer for two seasons consecutively. Certainly one can argue any and all three of these players for extensions now, but why not let them play another year and continue to build upon those bodies of work.
Of course, the counter argument: what if they all get better? That’s simple. The Bengals set several franchise records, and it’s hard to see them not in the AFC Championship. At a minimum.
Anyone want to cry about that?