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Canfora: other teams eyeing Bengals young talent, don't believe Mikey will pay to keep them.

Quietly, it's already begun, the exchanging of offers and contract parameters with Cincinnati's long list of players who will command a new contract within the next year -- and there appear to be significant difference in figures with star defensive linemen Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson, already. The agent community is still largely skeptical of the team's intent to spend after watching the Bengals let players walk in the past, hording unused cap space, opting not to compete at the higher level of free agency for outside talent. And, in rival front offices, some executives are watching closely, too, eyeing up Bengals with expiring contracts as potential targets next offseason, and beyond, and figuring there is no way this club keeps all the talent it has amassed.


The Bengals know they need Atkins (a fourth-round pick in 2010), but at this stage of the game I'd expect him to end up where Johnson is now, on the franchise tag. The numbers exchanged by the sides thus far are miles apart from what I've heard, and the reality is Haloti Ngata's $12.2-million-a-year deal with Baltimore in 2011, in which he made $27 million in the first year of the contract and $40 million over the first two years, has to be the floor here, in terms of numbers. Atkins has outperformed Ngata the past two seasons and could make the case for more cash.

This is the true test-case for Brown, right here: Will he establish a new all-time record salary at a position group? And while there is still plenty of time between now and next March, when the Bengals would have to apply the franchise tag, it would behoove the team to make every effort to put a strong offer on the table and try to get this resolved before this season begins. Because, with a month to go before the July 15 deadline to strike a long-term deal with Johnson, those sides aren't close to getting anything done, according to league sources.

So, no deal close on MJ and miles apart on Atkins. If they lose Geno fans will turn Mikes front lawn into a dump site.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Well, here we are at t-minus 2 weeks until the deadline to sign tagged players to long-term deals. Nothing appears imminent on the MJ front, so it looks like he will be playing under the tag this season.


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Oh, I have little faith a long term deal will happen with MJ, but it's shouldn't be surprising.

It's been discussed at great lengths already that the team will have some decisions to make and that they won't be able to keep everyone.

Unless MJ is willing to take far less than what he could probably get in free agency next season, it won't happen.

He has no real reason to sign a low ball offer. Injuries be d*mned. He just needs to make sure he brings it this coming season.

That could work out nicely for the 2013 season.

(Dunlap, Atkins, Green, Dalton)

Think about those contracts for a minute and figure out how the rest of the roster stays in tact without losing someone along the way.

All good teams with talent face this dilemma.

I'm happy we finally have this particular problem to be honest.

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They absolutely cannot let Atkins walk. The best defensive player in the NFL at his prime and he is on your team you have to wrap him up long term or risk completely alienating what fan base you have left. The loss of either Dunlap or MJ would be survivable the loss of both or the loss of Atkins would be a complete debacle.

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Just for some context, here's some quick research I posted in a thread on CJ a week or two ago:

Notable extensions 2005-12:

Palmer 9/$118.75 million (13.2)

Levi 6/$40 million (6.7)

Willie 5/$32 million (5.9)

Chad 6/$35.5 million (5.9)

Geathers 6/$33.7 million (5.6)

Peko 5/$29.3 million (5.8)

Whit I 4/$30 million (7.5)*

Hall 4/$39 million (9.75)

Whit II 2/$20 million (10)*

Nelson 4/$18 million (4.5)

Moobs 3/$18 million (6)

* Whit I+II 6/$50 million (8.3)

Notable departures 2005 (actually 2007)-12

Steinbach 7/$49.5 (7.1)

Justin 6/$45 million (7.5)

Housh 5/$40 million (8)

JJoe 5/$48.75 million (9.75)

A couple things jumped out at me:

1. No matter what the length, the Bengals don’t seem to be big fans of contracts worth more than $40 million. Aside from Palmer, the only guy who got a $40 million deal was Levi Jones, though if you combine Whit’s two extensions he is at $50 million over 6 years. But outside of LT they have been unwilling to go over that mark, as evidenced by all four of their notable FA losses getting $40 million-plus. They also haven't been down with longer contracts in a while but that could have been a function of the expiring old CBA.

2. The Bengals are really entering what for them is uncharted territory, not just with Geno but AJ, MJ and Dunlap as well. The market for pass-rushing DEs topped out at about $8.5 million annually this year. That’s significantly more than any Bengals DE has ever made. I think Antwaan Odom is the record-holder, and his deal was 5 years, $29.5 million, or just a bit less than $6 million a year. I have seen the number $12 million/year bandied about as a reasonable price for Atkins and Green’s agent is doubtless eyeing Megatron’s monster 8-year, $132 million contract as the starting point for negotiations.

This isn't to say that deals won't get done. But the scale is unprecedented (save for the Palmer deal) in Bengals history.

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I think it would be very difficult to get buy in from the fan base when it comes to ticket sales, but I wouldn't dismiss it happening either.

I just can't see the team hamstringing itself financially for one or even two players.

However, I do WANT to see them keep Atkins and Green long term.

Both are the best on each side of the ball and have the ability to change games.

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I do feel if Geno wants a new contract now should probably take less then Ngata (since he would be getting it 2-3 Years in Advance...He has one year left in his rookie and if he get's tagged He'll be payed as a top 5 DT then if he gets tagged again it's what a 15% increase.It also puts him at risk of Injury...Also risk of being injured in that time but if he does hit free agency I would be more happy with making him highest payed DT in the NFL because I really do feel like we can't lose him.

"They've gotten modern," said Mo Egger, a Cincinnati sports radio host who's been a Bengals fan since the 1985 season. "They're not there yet. It was a year ago when they were going to get their players iPads. I'm sure Mike was like, 'What the hell is an iPad?' I say that almost endearingly. But he understands it's something the coaches needed. They've evolved more in the past two or three years than they ever have before.


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Back on the MJ front, Clayton points out in his new mailbag that with one week left, none of the nine franchise tagged players have been signed to long-term deals yet. He thinks that's a sign the tag system is broken, and I think he's right, but not for the reason (flat salary cap) he cites. It's the new rookie salary system (h/t COB). With even first-rounders so cheap (in NFL terms) the incentive to pay even proven, highly talented guys has plummeted. Consider MJ versus Margus Hunt: right now anyone would say that MJ is clearly the better player. But even with his signing bonus thrown in Hunt will cost the Bengals less than $1.5 million this season. MJ will cost nearly $11.2 million. That's a big freakin' gap. Even the most "committed to winning" owner would have to question crossing that chasm.

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Again, there is simply no reason for these players to sign a contract that reduces the amount of money they are getting paid this season, when they have the chance to cash in again the following season. Sure, you can say they might get injured, but if I think I would take the risk on getting injured quite honestly. I mean in MJ's case, if he gets hurt this year, he's still up 11.2 million. I don't think he's going to be hurting.

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Oh, he won't be hurting, I'm sure. What I'm saying is that unless MJ has an incredible year, he won't get a deal averaging anywhere near $11 million a year in 2014. Instead he will at best find himself getting offers in the $8-9 million range, about where pass-rushing DEs topped out this year. In the past, even so-so players could get big bucks in FA based on being the best available. I think those days are gone.

I think all this actually bodes well for the Bengals' ability to hold onto at least some of their talent, though it will still require the FO to step up to spending levels that, while not as crazy as years past, are still above what they have historically been willing to pay.

ETA: brief twitter exchange between Reedy and Brandt guesstimating AJ's value on the open market:

Andrew Brandt ‏@adbrandt 2h

Giants/Victor Cruz in negotiations. Market for top WRs - below Fitz/Megatron level - is $25-26M guaranteed and $10-11M per year.


Joe Reedy Joe Reedy ‏@joereedy 1h

@adbrandt Green starting point next year is $30-32M guaranteed and $12-14M per year?

Note that the highest average a Bengal has ever gotten is Palmer's $13.1 million.

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Yeah, I knew what you were getting at with MJ Hoosier, I just find it odd that people think he should be worried about the possibility of injury.

My thought is that when he makes a one year haul in the range that he is this year, it makes that concern far less.

That is unless someone thinks they couldn't survive on 11.2 million.

AJ Green ?? Yeah, he's going to get paid. I don't know if I place him above the contract Mega-Tron signed, but it won't be far off.

I also can't say one way or another that I think he will be here long term. It's not like he has some loyalty to the Bengals.

The Bengals are going to be playing tag I think for the next couple years.

How much do you think the Bengals would be willing to hamstring the remainder of the roster to sign both AJ and Geno to those types of deals ??

You can also add Dalton to this conversation as well. Call it what you will, but he's going to get paid handsomely as well.

Tough decisions for the Bengals after this season is over.

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Reedy has some comments and audio from MJ off Sirius:


Nothing new, really. No animosity but no progress either. Nothing appears to be happening on the Atkins or Dunlap front either, aside from vague hopes that a deal with Atkins can get done before next year.

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Again, the Bengals should be hot on using the fact that Atkins doesn't make sh*t right now and the risk he's taking playing this year.

Get him extended before THIS season begins. They lose that leverage after this season and a good chance of pricing themselves out.

He would certainly get the tag if unsigned at the end of the season, as there's no way they let him go without using it at least once.

Thing is, what they would pay him under the tag is about where they should start his new contract.

Just get it done Bengals.

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