When it comes to the Cincinnati Bengals, there’s no one player who is more important to the success of Mike Zimmer’s defense than defensive tackle Geno Atkins. Over the last two seasons, Atkins has established himself as the most dominant defensive tackle in the NFL.
Opposing quarterbacks fear the two-time All-Pro selection for obvious reasons. In three seasons, Atkins has been able to muster up 23 quarterback sacks, 36 quarterback hits, 100 quarterback hurries and six forced fumbles.
The folks over at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) believe the fourth-round pick out of Georgia is the second-best interior defensive lineman since the start of the 2008 season. Some of you may be wondering how that is even possible based on the fact he didn’t enter the league until 2010.
Based on PFF’s grading system, Atkins managed to record a plus-130.4 grade in 48 career games. Only San Francisco 49ers interior defensive lineman Justin Smith played well enough to earn a higher grade. He graded out at a plus-158.3. But here’s the catch: It took him 78 games to arrive at a plus-158.3 grade.
Even though Atkins isn’t a household name yet, he will be after he signs a contract extension that makes him one of the highest-paid defensive tackles in the league. In terms of guaranteed money, no defensive tackle makes more than Detroit Lions superstar Ndamukong Suh.
Under the old collective bargaining agreement, his rookie contract promised him $38.3 million in guarantees. One would be hard-pressed to think Atkins would see that kind of money from the Bengals, yet it’s not hard to fathom him receiving a contract extension that is structured like Haloti Ngata’s with the Baltimore Ravens.
Ngata’s annual average salary is $9,704,800, and he received a $25 million signing bonus with $27.9 million guaranteed.
Atkins deserves an extension based on his superior play, and Cincinnati would be smart to give him one before the start of the 2013 season. Another mind-boggling year for the defensive tackle would only drive his price up higher.
Bengals owner Mike Brown doesn’t exactly shell out the cash like Jerry Jones, so he better act fast.