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For a long time, the Cincinnati Bengals built their defense around a formidable front four, which included Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson and Geno Atkins. The two bookend defensive ends, Dunlap and Johnson, were an important part of the team’s success.
Now it looks like the team has locked up another duo of edge rushers for the foreseeable future.
First, the team signed former Saints defensive end Trey Hendrickson, 26, to a four-year deal worth $60 million, including $32 million over the first two years. Though he brought home only 6.5 sacks through his first three seasons, the Florida Atlantic product racked up 13.5 sacks last season.
He also added another 25 quarterback hits and 27 pressures in 2020.
As long as he can keep that up in his new city, he’ll be worth every bit of that new contract. But it also looks like his new pass rushing buddy, Sam Hubbard, will be teaming up with Hendrickson well beyond 2021.
On Sunday, the Bengals signed Hubbard to a four-year extension worth $40 million.
Considering the fourth-year player out of Ohio State got just two sacks and 11 QB hits in 2020, many may wonder why the team signed him to such a long-term commitment. Well, I think I understand the team’s thought process here.
First off, Hubbard’s first two seasons, when he was often just a rotational player, included 14.5 sacks. Once Carlos Dunlap was shipped off last year, offenses then started giving Hubbard more attention. That could be why he struggled.
The team finished with the fewest sacks in the NFL, and that’s why they’re now working so hard to build up the pass rusher beyond just this season. They also drafted Texas pass rusher Joseph Ossai in the third round (No. 69 overall) back in April for this same reason.
That trio of Hendrickson, Hubbard and Ossai, along with Khalid Kareem, Wyatt Hubert and others should be an improvement from last year. Plus, the interior looks to be in good hands as well with D.J. Reader, Larry Ogunjobi, Mike Daniels and rookie Tyler Shelvin available.
With star quarterback Joe Burrow healthy, maybe this Bengals team can soon become competitive in the AFC North again.
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Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.