ICYMI: Earning Their Stripes: Part III – End of the Line

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Nov 13, 2011; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace (17) avoids the Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Robert Geathers (91) during the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

It interesting that most people don’t realize that there is a fairly substantial and fair reaching battle going on at the defensive end position.  Right now, the Bengals have eight players vying for spots, and with only four named to final roster last season, some tough choices will have to be made, especially with four of those eight players entering into their contract year.  Some would argue this decision is an easy one based on talent, production, salary cap space, and existing contract structure.  A closer look shows the structural integrity of some of this logic to perhaps not be as sound as originally thought.

In terms of pure money, one player is consuming more cap space than the other seven defensive ends combined – Michael Johnson.  Rightly so; his 11.5 sacks were second on the team last year and big reason why the Bengals were 3rd in the NFL in total sacks.  His franchise tag of $11.2M dwarfs the next closest player, veteran Bengal Robert Geathers, who’s recently signed a new contract taking him out through 2016.  This year Geathers will hit $3.25M against the cap, and despite this being his 10th season in the NFL, all with Cincinnati, Geathers only recorded 3.0 sacks last season.  This may be important to note because Geathers has not logged 4.0 sacks or more in a season since 2006.  Geathers is the old man in the group; he turns 30 in August.