Carlos Dunlap

North Notes: Vikings, Dunlap, Jackson

One of the final pieces to the Vikings‘ extensive extension puzzle, Stefon Diggs does not want to leave the Twin Cities anytime soon. Although the emerging wide receiver could be in line for WR1 money on the open market next year, Diggs would prefer his second contract come from the Vikings — as so many of his peers’ have in recent years.

I want to be here. I love being here,” Diggs said, (Twitter link, via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press). “I love being a part of the organization. They took a chance on me early on so I love it here as far as where we’re at. … Hopefully, we can get some things done and we’ll see how it goes.”

The Vikings have discussed an extension with Diggs’ camp, but nothing appears to be imminent, per Tomasson. Diggs and Anthony Barr represent the final two steps in Minnesota’s years-long effort to fortify a core, one that stands to be in its primes throughout Kirk Cousins‘ contract. If Diggs were to hit free agency, though, he would almost certainly be a coveted commodity. While Odell Beckham Jr. could theoretically be a 2019 free agent, that seems unlikely. Diggs could be the top wideout on a market that as of now would include Devin Funchess, Randall Cobb and Kelvin Benjamin.

Here’s the latest from the North.

  • Carlos Dunlap and the Bengals may be approaching the finish line on what would be a third Cincinnati contract for the veteran defensive end. Drew Rosenhaus spent time in Cincinnati this weekend, and Dunlap said (via Paul Dehner Jr. and Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer), “When you see him out here you know he is doing something. He’s out here for a reason.” Dunlap and the Bengals have made progress on a deal this offseason, but the 29-year-old pass rusher remains tied to his second contract. That deal expires after this season. Dunlap wants to play the rest of his NFL days in Cincinnati. “I would love to get it done. I would love to finish my career here as a Bengal,” he said, via Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com.
  • Lamar Jackson‘s slender frame emerged as a pre-draft topic, but the Ravens rookie not planning a significant weight-gain project as he readies for the NFL. Jackson said (via Terez Paylor of Yahoo.com) he’s at 216 pounds and doesn’t want to be above 220, in order to maintain his elite speed.
  • First-round pick Mike Hughes will work as the Vikings‘ kick returner, while veteran Marcus Sherels will start off as the punt returner, Tomasson tweets. Though there will be competition, this would be the team’s preferred arrangement. Re-signed this offseason, Sherels has been Minnesota’s punt-return man for seven years. Hughes only worked as a return man in one season, last year at Central Florida, but he totaled three return touchdowns in that time.
  • As expected, Mychal Kendricks saw his first Browns action as a weak-side linebacker, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal notes. Recovering from offseason ankle surgery, the former Eagles ‘backer is participating on a limited basis for now. Ulrich suggests Kendricks may be a super-sub, working at all three Browns linebacker spots while Christian Kirksey, Jamie Collins and Joe Schobert retain their first-string roles.

Extension Candidate: Carlos Dunlap

Earlier this year, defensive end Carlos Dunlap opted to skip the Bengals’ organized team activities. The decision to work out on his own in Florida cost him $300K in bonuses, but it may have helped him ramp up pressure on the team as he pushes for a new deal. For his part, Dunlap claims his decision was made for football reasons

[RELATED:Tyler Kroft Seeking Contract Extension]

“All the comments and everything talking about the reasons for me not being here obviously hit home a little bit because they painted me to be a selfish guy, which was not my objective,” Dunlap said. “My goal was to make sure I was in the best shape for when football starts so that I can be there for my team for the long haul.”

Either way, it’s clear that Dunlap wants to stay with the Bengals beyond 2018 on a new and improved deal. The Bengals also want to keep him for the long haul, but only at the right price.

Dunlap is entering the final year of the six-year, $40MM extension he signed in 2013. The 29-year-old will earn a base salary of $7MM, which is well below his true value.

Extending Dunlap is a pricey proposition and the decision is complicated by the club’s other extension candidates. Fellow defensive lineman Geno Atkins is entering the final year of his contract and a new pact may call for upwards of $12MM per year. Cornerback Darqueze Dennard is coming off of a career year and the Bengals would like to keep him, despite the presence of Dre Kirkpatrick and William Jackson III. There’s also a trio of tight ends to consider in Tyler Kroft, Tyler Eifert, and C.J. Uzomah, and the team may want to leave some money in the coffers to re-sign defensive end Michael Johnson after the 2018 season.

The Bengals have also invested heavily in defensive ends in recent drafts by adding Carl LawsonJordan Willis, and Sam Hubbard. In theory, they can part with Dunlap if the price gets too high if they are confident in their your DE group.

Still, Dunlap has been tremendous in Cincinnati, particularly in the second half of games. The advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus have routinely rated him as a top-30 edge defender over the past seven seasons and he has been equally strong against the pass and the run. Even if the youngsters could do an admirably job in his stead, losing Dunlap would hurt the team’s front seven.

Dunlap is well aware of the riches that could await him in free agency as the edge defender market continues to rise sharply. In theory, Dunlap could parlay a big 2018 season into a $15MM/year deal, but he would be taking a risk if he cannot turn in another quality season for the Bengals. A new deal would give him financial security and, depending on the length of the deal, give him an opportunity to retire with the only club he’s ever known.

There are a lot of mouths to feed in Cincinnati, but Johnson’s expiring $6.1MM contract should provide the team enough room to get a deal done. If Dunlap is willing to sacrifice some upside in order to remain with the Bengals, the two sides could find a midpoint with a four-year extension in the range of $50MM. Alternatively, a shorter extension could make sense for the two sides. An additional three years added to Dunlap’s contract would allow him to hit the open market again at the age of 32 and give the Bengals some wiggle room should they look to hang on to their trio of younger defensive ends.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bengals, DE Carlos Dunlap Making Progress On Extension

The Bengals have made progress on a contract extension for Carlos Dunlap, as the veteran defensive end told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com.

Dunlap staged something of a short-lived holdout by failing to attend organized team activities earlier this year, but Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis said Dunlap’s absence was “not a big deal.” Dunlap has since reported, and claims his missed practice sessions were not contract-related. Instead, Dunlap said he simply preferred to work out in Florida, although he did sacrifice a $300K bonus by doing so.

“All the comments and everything talking about the reasons for me not being here obviously hit home a little bit because they painted me to be a selfish guy, which was not my objective,” Dunlap said, according to Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “My goal was to make sure I was in the best shape for when football starts so that I can be there for my team for the long haul.”

The Bengals have two high-profile defensive linemen entering contract seasons, as both Dunlap and defensive tackle Geno Atkins‘ deals expire after the 2018 campaign. While Cincinnati may view Atkins as a priority, Dunlap also needs a new pact, as the six-year, $40MM extension he signed in 2013 is now coming to a close. Dunlap, 29, will earn a base salary of $7MM for the upcoming season.

Dunlap is still an excellent player, as he’s averaged 10 sacks over the past three years and graded as the NFL’s No. 23 edge defender in 2017, per Pro Football Focus. But the Bengals have invested heavily in defensive ends in recent drafts, picking up Carl Lawson, Jordan Willis, and — most recently — Sam Hubbard.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Broncos, Brady, Jets, Dunlap

Bill Musgrave, who was elevated to Broncos‘ offensive coordinator once Mike McCoy was dismissed after Week 10 of the 2017 campaign, could not effectuate many wholesale changes to the offense midseason. But as Mike Klis of 9News.com writes, Musgrave is installing an almost completely different offense this year. “Yeah, it’s pretty much all different,” Musgrave said.

Denver ranked 27th in the league in scoring last season, and everyone from the front office down believed that McCoy’s complex system was a big reason for that, although the team’s offense has been in a funk since the second half of the 2014 season. However, the Broncos hope that Case Keenum will bring much-needed stability to the quarterback position, and that Musgrave’s more streamlined offense — which was developed along with GM John Elway, head coach Vance Joseph, and personnel advisor Gary Kubiak — will lead to improved results in 2018.

Now let’s take look at a few other AFC notes and rumors:

  • Although Tom Brady has not announced when he will return to the Patriots, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, just like owner Robert Kraft, expects him to be present for the team’s mandatory minicamp this week. Brady’s backups, Brian Hoyer and Danny Etling, have gotten increased work in Brady’s absence, and it remains unclear as to how Brady will be received by head coach Bill Belichick when he returns. While Brady will likely not have much trouble making up for lost time, his absence has created plenty of buzz in the NFL world, and it is not helping the already palpable tension between him and his coach.
  • Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says Patriots second-year TE Jacob Hollister, who made the team as a UDFA last year, has added some noticeable weight and strength and has looked good in OTAs. Hollister will compete for No. 3 TE reps with free agent signee Troy Niklas, who comes with a better draft pedigree but who has not done much in his first few professional seasons.
  • Jets CEO Christopher Johnson‘s pro-player stance on the national anthem issue will likely not be a major factor when it comes to luring free agents, but Rich Cimini of ESPN.com says it is suggestive of a player-friendly environment, which could be a selling point if a player has narrowed his choice to a couple of teams. In the same piece, Cimini notes that the team is rededicating itself to a physical and prominent running game, which free agent signee Isaiah Crowell will lead, and that Quincy Enunwa still expects to be ready for the start of training camp.
  • Steelers‘ 2018 second-round choice James Washington is the presumptive favorite to assume the team’s No. 3 WR job following the draft-day trade of Martavis Bryant. But as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com writes, Justin Hunter — a former second-round pick of the Titans whose star never rose like some expected — has been getting a few first-team reps during this year’s OTAs, and he is making the most of them. Hunter, like Bryant, is a lanky deep threat capable of making plays downfield, and he hopes to become a consistent target for Ben Roethlisberger.
  • Both Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap are entering the final year of their respective contracts, and as Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer notes, the Bengals clearly want to keep Atkins around long-term. Whether or not they want to keep Dunlap could hinge not only on the performance of the young defensive lineman already on the roster, but on next year’s crop of rookies. 2019 is already being labeled “the year of the defensive lineman,” and if the 2019 crop of collegiate prospects lives up to its billing, Cincinnati could be perfectly content to let Dunlap walk. We learned yesterday that Dunlap would end his short-lived holdout and report to the team.
  • In the same piece linked above, Dehner names Bengals‘ 2018 fifth-round choice Darius Phillips as the late-round pick who has stood out the most thus far. Phillips has been deployed as a slot corner in spring practices and has looked sharp and instinctive. He also has been getting a shot at punt returner, as he is reportedly electric with the ball in his hands.

Carlos Dunlap To Report To Bengals

Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap will end his short-lived holdout and report to the team soon, according to his teammate Michael Johnson. So far, Dunlap has been the only Bengal not present for voluntary OTAs as he enters the final year of his contract. 

It was reported last week that Dunlap had missed the beginning of OTAs, and he never showed after that. He forfeited a $300K workout bonus by not showing up, but coach Marvin Lewis called it “not a big deal” at the time. Lewis apparently knew what Dunlap was thinking, as the star pass-rusher has now made it clear he doesn’t plan to extend his holdout into the mandatory phases of the offseason program as he angles for a new contract.

Dunlap has been a force for the Bengals and a staple of their defense since entering the league as a second round pick back in 2010. Over the past two seasons, Dunlap has 15.5 sacks and 22 passes defended. His teammates don’t seem too concerned about Dunlap’s absence, as Johnson said “he’ll be back ready to roll” when he returns.

Entering the final year of a six-year, $40MM contract he signed back in 2013, Dunlap will surely be looking for a raise after he’s made the Pro Bowl two out of the past three seasons. The Bengals’ other star defensive lineman, Geno Atkins, is also entering the final year of his contract and the Bengals are reportedly looking to extend him first. While he may have to wait until the Bengals get a deal done with Atkins, still in his prime at the age of 29, Dunlap should get the extension he wants from the Bengals at some point.

AFC Notes: Raiders, Incognito, Steelers

After the NFL recently announced their new national anthem policy, more details about the owners’ process are trickling out. There apparently was no official vote on the new anthem policy, only an informal polling of owners by league executives, according to Seth Wickersham of ESPN (Twitter links). Wickersham added that Raiders owner Mark Davis abstained from the vote and was “one of the most eloquent speakers on the social justice issues.” Davis joined 49ers owner Jed York, who made his abstention public yesterday, in abstaining from the vote.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • Free agent offensive lineman Richie Incognito apparently believed he was being followed by FBI agents and was in the possession of secret NSA documents when he was placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold yesterday (Twitter link via USA Today’s A.J. Perez). Incognito recently announced his retirement from the league, but has since wavered and indicated he’d like to continue playing with a team other than the Bills, who he played the last three seasons with. Incidents like this certainly won’t help Incognito’s quest to latch on with another team.
  • Steelers defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt played with a torn bicep during the 2017 season, according to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic (Twitter link). Tuitt made clear that he’s fully healthy now, saying the injury “is back healed again and strong and I can’t wait to stick people in the mouth with it.” Tuitt was signed to a $60MM extension before last season, and will be counted on to play a big role this year.
  • Bengals star defensive end Carlos Dunlap missed the beginning of OTAs, according to Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Although Bengals coach Marvin Lewis called it “not a big deal,” Dunlap will miss out on a $300K workout bonus. Dunlap, a two-time Pro-Bowler, is entering the final year of his contract and is apparently angling for an extension.

Extra Points: Cowboys, Rams, Brockers, Lions, Dunlap

After much speculation, Cowboys defender Byron Jones confirmed on Monday that he will be switching from safety to cornerback in 2018, the Dallas Morning News’ Jon Machota writes.

Viewed as a versatile defender coming out of college, Jones played cornerback as a rookie in 2015 and a safety the past two seasons. New defensive backs coach Kris Richard preferred him at the former.

“I think it will be a good move for me and the team. I’m always open to making position changes, as long as I’m in the best position to succeed. If [Richard] believes my best position is corner, then I’m down.”

Richard knows a thing or two about getting the best from bigger cornerbacks. With the Seahawks, Richard oversaw Richard Sherman’s ascent to one of the premier corners in the league. What remains to be seen is if the team prefers him on the boundary or in the slot. In 2017, rookies Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis showed plenty of promise on the outside.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • In a press conference on Monday, Rams defensive lineman Michael Brockers told reporters he tore his MCL in the team’s playoff loss to the Falcons in January, ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez tweets. During that game, the sixth-year defender sat out the second half. The good news for Los Angeles is that Brockers took part in team activities on Monday, but they’re not in pads until training camp.
  • If any Lions players are moved in draft-day deals, some of the names that make sense include Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick and Jake Rudock, ESPN’s Michael Rothstein writes. Those names all come to mind after the team added veterans in LeGarrette Blount and Matt Cassel in the offseason.
  • The goal is for the Bengals to sign both Carlos Dunlap and get a new deal with Geno AtkinsBengals.com writer Geoff Hobson notes in a mailbag. Both Dunlap’s and Atkins’ deals run through the 2018 campaign.
  • NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to be deposed in the next two weeks in Colin Kaeperncik‘s collusion case against the league, USA Today’s A.J. Perez writes. Seahawks general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll are also on the docket to be deposed.

Bengals Notes: Atkins, Dunlap, Ross

Defensive tackle Geno Atkins is near the top of the Bengals’ wishlist of players to extend. The six-time Pro Bowler is entering the final year of a five-year $55MM extension and though he turned 30 earlier this week, he’s not showing signs of slowing down.

Atkins has tallied nine sacks in each of the last two seasons without missing a game. In fact, he hasn’t missed a game since 2013.

The Bengals have indicated his extension will certainly be a priority.

“In our football business, you pay for high-end talent and Geno has been at the top of our industry for a long time and we think he can continue to do that and that’s why we’re trying to see what the opportunities are going forward,” said Bengals vice president Troy Blackburn to Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer

Atkins set the market for defensive tackles back in 2013 but has since been upstaged by the likes of Gerald McCoy (seven years, $98MM) and Ndamukong Suh (six years, $114MM — with the Dolphins). Suh most-recently signed a one-year, $14MM deal with the Rams.

Here’s more from the Bengals:

  • The Bengals have another defensive lineman nearing free agency in Carlos Dunlap. He’s also entering the final year of his deal — a six-year, $40MM extension signed in July 2013. The 29-year-old two-time Pro Bowler hasn’t logged less than 7 1/2 sacks in a season since 2013 while not missing a game since 2012. Blackburn said “That’s right” to Dehner Jr. when asked if Dunlap was viewed in the same scope as Atkins. But excess talent at defensive end in Carl Lawson and Jordan Willis could complicate matters. “At the same time, we’re going to be looking at the young guys we have coming up,” Blackburn said
  • John Ross had an abysmal rookie season with the Bengals, fumbling on his only touch of the year. But his lack of production didn’t have to do with a fractured relationship with coach Marvin Lewis. “He wasn’t in my doghouse. I don’t have a doghouse,” Lewis said to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “I think he’s all the ability we wanted. That’s why we drafted him. He had to get fixed. We knew he was injured going in and he got nicked up a couple of times in his lower legs and the other shoulder was bothering him. He’s all fixed now.” The Bengals took the speedster out of Washington with the No. 9 overall pick of the 2017 draft.
  • Earlier this week, Bengals president of player personnel Duke Tobin acknowledged that building around a player like Vontaze Burfict hasn’t been “ideal” but the team plans to stick by him and his recently-signed three-year extension for the time being. Burfict is suspended for the first four games of the upcoming season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

AFC Notes: Johnson, McFadden, Butler

The Bengals used the franchise tag on defensive end Michael Johnson a year ago, but the 27-year-old repaid the team with just 3.5 sacks in 2013, making a second tag unlikely. Consequently, he’s expected to hit the open market, but the presence of Carlos Dunlap and Wallace Gilberry could soften the blow, according to ESPN.com’s Cole Harvey.

Other AFC news and notes:

  • Harvey also mentions Raiders free agent running back Darren McFadden as a realistic acquisition given Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson’s not-so-secret appreciation for the 26-year-old, 2008 first-rounder.
  • Chargers inside linebacker Donald Butler, whose rookie deal is expiring, has missed 23 of 66 career games, but the Bolts value what he brings when healthy, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Tom Krasovic. In fact, the team drafted Manti Te’o with the intention of pairing him with Butler inside defensive coordinator John Pagano’s 3-4 front. Butler and the team discussed a contract extension last summer, and all indications suggest both sides are interested in a new deal.
  • The Ravens are expected to be awarded the league-maximum four compensatory picks, according to ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley.