Bengals’ Highest-Paid Players Have To Step Up In 2017

Jan 1, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) looks to pass against the Baltimore Ravens in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) looks to pass against the Baltimore Ravens in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

In 2017, the Bengals will be led by a young core of talented and highly-paid stars. Here’s ‘Who Dey’ are and why Cincy needs them to step up this season.

As a Bengals fan, it’s hard to cope with year after year of disappointment. Especially when you know your team has a talented core of star players.

The reality of the situation is this Bengals team has not lived up to its potential or our expectations. A lot of that blame is often placed on head coach Marvin Lewis, but to be honest, it’s time to start pointing fingers at the players on the field.

The Bengals stars have to step up in 2017. Cincinnati has nearly $60 million tied into five players this season. Those players are Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Geno Atkins, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Carlos Dunlap. The $60 million accounts for 38.1 percent of the team’s total salary, according to ( this is before the 2017 Draft).

Bengals Highest Paid Players in 2017: 

  • Andy Dalton – $16 million
  • A.J. Green – $15 million
  • Geno Atkins – $10.6 million
  • Dre Kirkpatrick – $10.5 million
  • Carlos Dunlap – $7.8 million

Green and Atkins typically show up game-in and game-out. But the remaining three have not been productive enough on a consistent basis. That has to change this season and it has to start at the quarterback position.

The Bengals Offense Starts and Stops with Dalton

The 29-year-old Dalton has had an up-and-down career. The ‘Red Rifle’ is coming off one of his most prolific seasons in terms of passing yards. The 4,206 yards was the second-highest yardage of his career. However, Dalton often struggles to find targets in the end zone, only tossing 18 touchdowns in 2016. The 1.12 touchdown per game average just isn’t enough for the Bengals to be successful this upcoming season.

Bengals wideout A.J. Green will be looking to have a huge season in 2017. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Cincinnati’s success is directly tied to Dalton’s production. If the Bengals are to return to the postseason and actually make a run, Dalton needs to return to his 2013 form when he threw for a career-best 33 scores.

A more focused, productive Dalton also means a more productive Green. Last season, the Georgia product didn’t manage 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. The lack of productivity can be attributed to the hamstring injury he suffered in Week 11 against Buffalo. There should be zero concern about Green’s health this season, as he should be fully recovered. Meaning as long as the Bengals can add a little more depth at the receiver position in this year’s draft, Green should return to his normal, dominant self.

Bengals’ defense depends on star production

The Bengals’ defense also needs its cornerstones to pick up the slack. Dunlap and Atkins lead a defensive line that should be one of the top units in the NFL. Instead, the Bengals pass rushers only amassed 33 sacks last year, ranking 19th in the league.

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Atkins has always been a force inside. Last year he accounted for a team-leading 9.0 sacks while often facing double-teams. The Bengals tandem of Atkins and Dunlap were both rated in the top 20 for pass rushers in 2016 by Pro Football Focus. Dunlap’s 8.0 sacks weren’t far off Atkins total and for a defensive end that’s nothing to brag about.

Carlos has only hit double-digit sack totals once in his career in 2015 (13.5). Simply put, the Florida product has to do more from the edge for the Cincinnati defense to stand out in 2017.

In fact, based on last year’s contract, the Bengals paid Dunlap $743K per sack. Dunlap is being paid handsomely to get to the quarterback — it’s time he starts paying it off by getting to the QB.


Lastly, fresh off a new deal, Kirkpatrick has to be energized by the 5-year $52.5 million deal he signed this off-season. The Bengals top corner snared a team-leading three interceptions last year and was rated as PFF’s top corner when defending the deep ball.

Next: The Kicking Game Needs A Boost

However, as a unit, Cincinnati’s secondary allowed 237.5 yards per game, 22nd worst in the league. Kirkpatrick has the talent to build off last year’s success and lead this unit back into the top 10. But, to do so, the interceptions have to come in bunches. The Alabama product is going to have to double his interception output in 2017 now that he’s one of the highest paid corners in the league.

If the Bengals’ top-paid players can return to form and continue to play football at a high level, expect the Bengals record to flip in 2017.