Let’s get this out of the way—the Cincinnati Bengals are not going to cut defensive end Carlos Dunlap.
For those uninitiated to this nonsense, Tony Pauline of Draft Insider has a source who claims the Bengals may cut Dunlap outright to free up cap space:
I’m told the Cincinnati Bengals may have to cut Carlos Dunlap in order to create the salary cap room necessary to sign a number of other highly considered players on their roster about to hit free agency.
Pauline circled back with his source for confirmation later once the story spread:
Hence I went back to my source for clarification and was told yes, the organization has in fact had conversations about potentially cutting Carlos Dunlap or at least attempting to restructure his contract. I’m told the way Dunlap’s contract is structured the team has until March 30th to make a decision.
Look, Pauline is in no way at fault here—he’s reporting what a trusted source has to say.
But let’s take a step back. Dunlap is due a $5.7 million roster bonus on March 31. The Bengals need as much cap space as possible—even with the cap getting a lift recently—in order to bring back coveted free agents such as end Michael Johnson and offensive tackle Anthony Collins. Wiggle room is also a necessity if the front office wishes to iron out long-term deals with Andy Dalton and A.J. Green.
“Source” is doing nothing more than stating the obvious here. The Bengals have three options. We knew one beforehand—the Bengals can pay Dunlap’s bonus. The other two, which “source” has laid out for us, is for the Bengals to part ways with Dunlap (the extreme option), or to restructure his contract to reduce the cap hit (the obvious/likely option).
The front office in Cincinnati has already spoken with its wallet via the $39.37 million, five-year deal it dished out to Dunlap last summer. The roster bonus is in no way a surprise and the team was well aware of the financial tightrope it would have to walk this offseason.
For those who think the Bengals have to make a choice between Dunlap and Johnson at defensive end—they already did via Dunlap’s extension. They reinforced the decision by drafting an eerily similar prospect by the name of Margus Hunt in the second round last year. Johnson could very well come back, but it won’t be thanks to Dunlap’s departure—he had his chance to land a new deal and passed.
Expect restructure talk to continue for Dunlap, but the idea of the team letting go of a 25-year-old defensive end who happens to be one of the best in the NFL already with room to grow is just juvenile.
Want names to watch in the cut department for Cincinnati? Think about guys like Domata Peko and James Harrison, not a star defensive end one year into a new deal just because the time has come to pony up on a contract the team agreed to in the first place.
It’s the offseason, but the fact this story has legs is silly.