Earning Their Stripes: Part III – End of the Line

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As mentioned the Bengals usually take four defensive ends during the final 53-man shake out, but the odds of five being named this year is very likely.  With that in mind, Johnson, Dunlap and Hunt are the favorites, which leaves two spots to battle over.  Discounting Evans and assuming Moch finds a more loosely defined role later, the battle is between Geathers, Gilberry, and Anderson, all of whom interestingly enough have a $1M roster-bonus incentives built into their existing contracts.

August 16, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Jamaal Anderson (92) during the game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Bengals beat the Falcons 24-19. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Admittedly, Anderson is the most probable to lose out, but with Geathers and Gilberry under relatively low-balled contracts, keeping Anderson would present the Bengals with more interesting options at the end of the season.  For example, should Anderson be dropped, only Dunlap and Johnson will require deals at the beginning of 2014, and they will likely command large sums.  This leaves the Bengals a simple choice during a year where they will already be looking to lock up stud Geno Atkins and Andrew Hawkins: pay Dunlap and Johnson or lose one to be replaced through the Draft.  Being unable to fully forecast the Bengals 2014 Draft needs before a single snap of 2013 is taken could prove a bit bombastic.  Further, with Gilberry, Geathers and Hunt all still on contract, the option to cut one of these contracts would still there just like it is now.  On the other hand, keeping Anderson over Geathers is actually cheaper in the long run, but should only be considered if he demonstrates the requisite skill level in training camp and wins the job.  Should Anderson play and produce, there would be significant leverage against the other two defensive ends come next year’s negotiations as well as options for the Bengals front office.  Even if one was to depart, the Bengals would still have four legit pass rushers on the roster, though that argument could be made in the previous scenario as well, assuming Hunt progresses.

This isn’t necessarily an advocated rationale to keep an up-until-now unproven player like Anderson, rather this is simply a line thought.  What should be taken away here is that the obvious isn’t necessarily as obvious as many think; there is plenty of strategy to be had in each situation.  At the end of the day this is a good thing, because it means that the best players should be included on this year’s roster.