Geno Atkins Released by Bengals After 11 Seasons

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2021

Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins walks off the field after an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
Gary Landers/Associated Press

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor told reporters Friday that the team is releasing veteran defensive tackle Geno Atkins.

Atkins, who turns 33 on March 28, has spent his entire 11-year NFL career with the Bengals after getting selected by Cincinnati in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft.

According to Spotrac, releasing Atkins will save the Bengals $9.5 million against the salary cap.

Atkins has been among the best defensive tackles in football since entering the NFL, earning eight Pro Bowl and two First-Team All-Pro nods. He was also named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame's All-Decade team of the 2010s.

The former University of Georgia standout has recorded double-digit sacks in a season three times and nine or more sacks in a season five times, including a career-high 12.5 in 2012. As recently as 2018, Atkins had 10 sacks, which was the third-highest total of his career.

His production dropped in 2019, but he still secured a Pro Bowl nod with totals of 47 tackles and 4.5 sacks, but things truly went south last season.

Atkins battled a shoulder injury all season, which limited him to just eight games. He didn't record a single start for the first time in his career and had just one tackle on the season.

It was a shocking fall from grace for a player who has routinely put up elite-level numbers throughout his NFL career.

The Bengals can't be blamed for moving on considering how much money they saved. Doing so allowed them to invest heavily in their defense this offseason with the signings of defensive end Trey Hendrickson and cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton.

Cincinnati is coming off a 4-11-1 season in 2020 and a 2-14 mark in 2019, making now the perfect time to move forward and cut ties with the past.

The Bengals haven't reached the playoffs since 2015 and are likely at least a couple of years away from contending, but they have been hard at work reshaping their roster and attempting to become more competitive.

It is possible that Atkins hit the wall last season and won't be able to return to his past glory, but if he proves he is healthy and has put the shoulder issues behind him, he has a chance to be a good value signing for a tackle-needy team in free agency.