Geno Atkins #97 DT, Cincinnati Bengals
When discussing NFL Draft steals, a name that is rising up the list, like a rocket, is Cincinnati Bengals Defensive Tackle- Geno Atkins. The knock on Atkins prior to the 2010 Draft was he is simply too small to play as an interior lineman in the NFL. Well the past three years have obliterated the experts’ opinion of him. From a production standpoint, Pro Football Focus has graded Atkins as the highest ranking player on the Bengals defense for each of his first three seasons. With 12.5 sacks, 54 tackles, and 49 QB hurries, his 2012 season ranks with the best players -defense or offense- since PFF began ranking players in 2008.
Let’s analyse Geno Atkins’ market value. The highest paid NFL DT is the 3rd overall pick from the same draft, Tampa Bay Bucanneers’ Gerald McCoy. McCoy has recorded a total of 9.0 sacks and 69 tackles in his entire 3-year career. This stat line has cost the Bucaneers $12.7M APY and considering his Pro Bowl nomination in 2012 they should be happy with his deal. There are two other DT’s that have crossed the $12M APY threshold- Haloti Ngata and Ndamukong Suh. After these three players, there is a large break to the next level between $8M-$8.5M range of Randy Starks, Henry Melton and Vince Wilfork.
McCoy will command at least $12M and possibly upwards of $13.5 if he puts together another big year. Time is actually on the side of the Bengals in this negotiation as Atkins will be hard pressed to repeat his amazing 2012 season. This is also one of the few situations that the franchise tag will be a cost savings as well as a time filler for the Bengals. I looks as though Atkins won’t hit the open market until after the 2014 season.
Estimated New Contract: 5 years, $67.5 million