More than a third of Bengals roster heading into contract years in ‘18

While Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap has not spoken publicly about why he has skipped all voluntary OTA sessions this spring, it’s reasonable to deduce that his contract situation is at the heart of it.

Dunlap, who always has participated in OTAs since the Bengals took him in the second round in 2010, is heading into the final year a contract that will pay him $7 million this season. And at 29, this may be his last chance at a pay day similar or great to the five-year, $39.4 million extension he signed prior to 2013.

But while skipping voluntary workouts (and forfeiting a $300,000 workout bonus in his contract) may help Dunlap avoid any type of injury that could affect his market value, it could hinder his chances of continuing his career in Cincinnati.

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Dunlap isn’t the only Bengals player looking for an extension this offseason. He’s not even the only Pro Bowl defensive lineman eyeing one.

Geno Atkins is heading into the final season of a five-year, $53.3 million extension he signed in 2013, four months after Dunlap re-upped. He will make $9.5 million this year.

The Bengals would like to extend both players, but the question is whether they can allocate that much money to the defensive line again, especially when A.J. Green will be looking for a huge extension next summer.

Even if you take Green out of the equation, it’s still a complicated question because of the 91 players on the current roster, 32 (35 percent) have contracts that will expire at the end of the year.

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And while a lot of them won’t make the 53-man roster this year, 20 of them (38 percent) spent at least half the season on active roster last year or are expected to this year.

In addition to Dunlap and Atkins, here is a look at the other players heading into contract years and what their chances are of remaining with the Bengals in 2019 (ages are as of kickoff weekend):

Michael Johnson, DE

2018 salary: $4.9 million

Age: 31

Skinny: Moving Johnson inside to defensive tackle revitalized his career, and the Bengals love his strong veteran presence in the locker room. But the team has invested a lot of draft picks in the defensive line the last few years.

Chance of return: 25 percent

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Vinny Rey, LB

2018 salary: $2.7 million

Age: 31

Skinny: Rey's value is in his versatility and special teams play, which the Bengals rewarded with a three-year, $10.5 million deal, a rare, lucrative commitment for a non-starter. The team is thin at linebacker, and Rey has been the team's most consistent performer, but the offer in March is likely to be significantly lower.

Chance of return: 50 percent

Cedric Ogbuehi, OT

2018 salary: $1.7 million

Age: 26

Skinny: The Bengals declined the fifth-year option, so this is a prove it year for Ogbuehi, who has yet to prove anything. There's a chance the light comes on under new coach Frank Pollack, but as of this writing there would appear to be little chance of Ogbuehi re-signing.

Chance of return: 10 percent

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Brandon LaFell, WR

2018 salary: $4 million

Age: 31

Skinny: LaFell has been a steady but not spectacular in his two seasons with the Bengals. But he's not a lock to make the roster in 2018. His future with the team is tied as much to how the younger receivers – John Ross, Tyler Boyd, Josh Malone – perform.

Chance of return: 20 percent

Darqueze Dennard, CB

2018 salary: $8.5 million

Age: 26

Skinny: The 2014 first-round pick will play this season under a club option that comes with a $7 million raise, which shows what the team thinks of Dennard. He has an injury history, so it will be interesting to see if the Bengals extend him before the season or wait to see how 2018 plays out at the risk of Dennard pricing himself out of their budget.

Chance of return: 70 percent

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Tyler Eifert, TE

2018 salary: $4.6 million

Age: 28

Skinny: Eifert agreed to one-year deal below market value as a nod to the Bengals for their support through his injury issues. If the health problems continue in 2018, the Bengals would be interested in re-signing him. If he plays a full season returns to Pro Bowl form, they probably won't be able to afford him.

Chance of return: 33 percent

Jake Fisher, OT

2018 salary: $1 million

Age: 25

Skinny: If he wins the starting job, as expected, and keeps it all season, the Bengals will make every attempt to bring him back even though he will command substantially more in his first foray into free agency. The heart issue that ended his 2017 season may scare off other teams and lower his market value, making him an easy choice for a Bengals team that loves bargains.

Chance of return: 67 percent

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Preston Brown, LB

2018 salary: $5 million

Age: 25

Skinny: The Cincinnati native signed a one-year deal to realize the dream of playing for his hometown team. The MIKE linebacker spot has been a revolving door for the Bengals for several years. A solid season for Brown could change that … or it could lead to a bigger contract elsewhere.

Chance of return: 50 percent

T.J. Johnson, OL

2018 salary: $1.7 million

Age: 28

Skinny: Johnson has a dependable backup since entering the league in 2013. If he continues in that role in 2018, the Bengals certainly would be interested in bringing him back. If he ends up winning the starting job at right guard, he could have plenty of offers to pick from in March.

Chance of return: 60 percent

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Tyler Kroft, TE

2018 salary: $1.9 million

Age: 25

Skinny: Kroft played well in Eifert's absence last year, but he is another player whose value next March will be dependent on how 2018 plays out, specifically whether Eifert stays healthy and negates his snaps and stats.

Chance of return: 50 percent

Chris Baker, DT

2018 salary: $2.4 million

Age: 30

Skinny: This one is a guessing game as no one knows yet what to expect from the free agent acquisition, both in terms of performance and role in new coordinator Teryl Austin's scheme. But the Bengals rarely re-up players who sign one-year free agent deals.

Chance of return: 30 percent

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Josh Shaw, DB

2018 salary: $1.9 million

Age: 26

Skinny: Shaw isn't even a lock to make the team this year.

Chance of return: 15 percent

C.J. Uzomah, TE

2018 salary: $705,000

Age: 25

Skinny: Uzomah has been a steady contributor on special teams but hasn't give the team much offensively. And the last Bengals fifth-round pick to earn a second contract was punter Kevin Huber, who was drafted in 2009.

Chance of return: 20 percent

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Alex Erickson, WR

2018 salary: $630,000

Age: 25

Skinny: His value is almost exclusively limited to returning punts and, while they're still part of the game, kickoffs. The Bengals are not short on options to handle those duties should they cut Erickson prior to 2018, but look how long Brandon Tate stuck around as a return specialist until Erickson unseated him.

Chance of return: 25 percent

Randy Bullock, K

2018 salary: $790,000

Age: 28

Skinny: Bullock had a solid season last year, he just didn't get many opportunities. He's one of the lowest-paid kickers in the league, and if he makes 90 percent of his field goals again this year, the Bengals will jump at the chance to bring back such affordable value.

Chances of return: 60 percent

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Clark Harris, LS

2018 salary: $1 million

Age: 34

Skinny: Don't be surprised if the 2017 Pro Bowler signs an extension for the season begins. He's been one of the best in the league since arriving in Cincinnati in 2009.

Chance of return: 90 percent

Alex Redmond, G

2018 salary: $550,000

Age: 23

Skinny: It took him a while to get on the field, but he's in the mix for the starting job at right guard and would be an inexpensive piece of depth to bring back.

Chance of return: 60 percent

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Bobby Hart, OT

2018 salary: $1 million

Age: 23

Chance of return: Hart has made it clear he wants to win the starting job, but even if he doesn't he is likely to get a chance to prove his worth as the Bengals rarely make it through a season with both opening-day tackles starting all 16 games.

Chance of return: 50 percent

Trey Hopkins, G

2018 salary: $550,000

Age: 26

Skinny: Another candidate to start at right guard, Hopkins started 12 games last season and has stuck around for five years as undrafted free agent.

Chance of return: 66 percent

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The remaining 13 players are likely bound for the practice squad if they make the team at all. Unless the Bengals promote them to the 53-man roster before the end of the season, their most likely path to returning in 2018 would be via a Futures Contract.

Those players include linebackers Brandon Bell and Hardy Nickerson Jr., offensive linemen Kent Perkins and Justin Murray, running backs Tra Carson, Brian Hill and Jarveon Williams, defensive tackle Josh Tupou, cornerback Tony McRrae, safety Brandon Wilson and tight end Moritz Bohringer.

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