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Will Carlos Dunlap earn an extension in 2018

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NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 12: Defensive End Carlos Dunlap #96 of the Cincinnati Bengals in a game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on November 12, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 12: Defensive End Carlos Dunlap #96 of the Cincinnati Bengals in a game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on November 12, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /
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The Cincinnati Bengals have great depth at edge rushers on defense. Will defensive end Carlos Dunlap earn an extension in 2018?

The Cincinnati Bengals have added even more depth at the edge rusher position this offseason. Already having names like Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Carl Lawson, and Jordan Willis, it wasn’t enough for the Bengals as they added through the draft. Drafting the annual edge rusher in the middle rounds grabbing Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard this offseason, what does it all mean?

Cincinnati still has some of the best talents in the league along their defensive line, but there is the issue of age. Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap, and Geno Atkins are all hitting 30 years old, and while they are all still playing good football, you have to stay young. All three of those names are also only signed through 2018. Which ones will grab an extension and which ones need to prove something in 2018 to get an extension?

Carlos Dunlap has been playing on a team friendly deal with his $39 million over five years contract. That deal is expiring after this season, and it would cost the Bengals to sign him to an extension, and it would also be a risk with age. While Dunlap has been a significant piece along the Bengals defensive line for years and is a fan favorite, I’m not sure he is a lock for an extension.

Given all of the talent along the line, Cincinnati has the opportunity to replicate what the Philadelphia Eagles did last year rotating out consistently and having great depth at edge rushers. With that same depth on the roster, some of these younger talented players could end up pushing Dunlap out the door following the 2018 season.

According to Spotrac, Cincinnati is estimated to have just over $51 million to work with in cap space next offseason. How the 2018 season plays out will play a significant factor in what the Bengals decide to do with contract extensions next offseason. There’s also the fact that Sam Hubbard, Carl Lawson, Jordan Willis are all on rookie contracts for another couple of seasons following 2018 which is another indication that they could move on from Dunlap if the other edge rushers produce this year.

Lawson played in just over 50 percent of the defensive snaps last year and was the second highest in sack totals with 8.5. Willis saw minimal snaps in his rookie season coming into the league as a raw talent but with a high ceiling. Then you add in Sam Hubbard and what he is projected to be for the Bengals, and it looks even harder to see Dunlap getting an extension.

In an article by Bleacher Report ranking the top 4-3 defensive ends from 2017, Dunlap ranked 25th which will be alarming for many Bengals fans. According to Pro Football Focus, Dunlap ranked 17th among 4-3 defensive ends and 25th among edge rushers.

Next: Bengals have next generation of star pass rushers already on the roster

Dunlap would have to replicate his 2015 season when he hauled in 13.5 sacks to be a sure lock for an extension following the 2018 season. During the last five seasons, Dunlap has had 7.5 sacks or more for the Bengals each season, four of those seasons hauling in 7.5-8. Between age and talent on the roster vs. contract size, Dunlap has to outplay these younger talents on the defense this year and prove Cincinnati can’t live without him.

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