2013 likely to be Final Year of Michael Johnson/Carlos Dunlap Sack Duo


Dec 30, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson (93) reacts with defensive end Carlos Dunlap (96) during the second half against the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals defeated the Ravens 23-17. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

"“We can be one of the best tandems in the league, honestly.”    Michael Johnson on he and Carlos Dunlap becoming best DE tandem in NFL"

This will likely be the last year that Cincinnati Bengals defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson can accomplish this feat. Both players are slated to be free agents in 2014, and it’s unlikely the team will have the salary cap space to re-sign them both. They’ve combined for 40 sacks since 2010, and have the potential to become the best DE tandem in the NFL with All-Pro Geno Atkins drawing so much attention on the interior. But if both players do live up to their potential, they’ll both be commanding contracts in the area of 3-4 years for 20-30$ million apiece. That’s anywhere from a 20-30$ million cap hit next year for just the DEs, and that’s too much to invest in one position.

So which player is likelier to be brought back?

ESPN’s Jamison Hensley believes the Bengals should actually work to extend Dunlap instead for the more reliable Johnson:

"I may be in the minority on this one, but I would extend Carlos Dunlap over Michael Johnson for a couple of reasons. First, Johnson is going to command a much bigger contract than Dunlap after he recorded a career high 11.5 sacks last year. The Bengals are going to overpay to keep Johnson.Plus, Dunlap has been more productive over the course of his Bengals career. He’s had 20 sacks in three years, while Johnson has had 23 in four seasons. What it boils down to for me is talent. Dunlap is the more gifted player. I would sign him to an extension before his value soars like Johnson’s."

Whoever the Bengals do decide to re-sign, one thing is becoming unfortunately clear: One of the greatest sack duos in franchise history will likely be having a farewell tour in 2013, as it’s going to be close to impossible to re-sign both players in 2014.

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