Where could former Bengals DT Geno Atkins Sign?
By: Chandler Hyler
During the 2020 NFL season, Atkins not only seen a dip in statistical categories but in snaps played as well. The majority of the time, these two things do play into each other, as fewer snaps are played, it creates fewer opportunities to make plays. That being said, where there is smoke, there is likely to be fire. What I mean by that is the number of reduced snaps had to come from something, was it Atkins was battling back from a shoulder injury or had they seen a drastic drop in his play and production?
Former All–Pro and repeat visitor of the NFL’s top 100 list, Geno Atkins is still looking for a home for the 2021 NFL season. While he may not be the player he used to be, he could still bring in some rotational value for a team looking to upgrade their talent on the interior of their defensive line. Interest has been had for Atkins, but obviously, his market hasn’t been booming, otherwise, he would be preparing to suit up for an NFL franchise. Prior to Atkins being cut, he spent his entire 11 career with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Atkins saw action in eight games of the 2020 NFL Season but ultimately did not start one. Another alarming statistic from the previous season, he only recorded one tackle with zero sacks. In 2019, the former Georgia Bulldog played in all 16 games, while starting in 14 of those. There was a dip in his statistics in 2019 compared to 2018, as he totaled just 4.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hits compared to a 10 sack season and 19 quarterback hits in 2018. As for relevancy, this created the concern that during his 2019 season, once he surpassed the great age of 30, that he had begun to meet father time.
As a believer in fresh starts, Atkins still may have some gas left in the tank, he may just need to wipe his slate clean. The Cincinnati Bengals are going in a different direction, and instilling a youth movement in efforts to build around second-year stud quarterback Joe Burrow. Who could be suitors for the former All-Pro, wrecking ball in Atkins?
- Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas has had major problems with creating pressure on the quarterback and has since the departure of all worldly talent, Khalil Mack. I don’t see Atkins coming in and being the absolute solution here, but I could see a scenario where Atkins at the minimum, improves the issue. With newly hired defensive coordinator, Gus Bradley, this unit should see some improvement as a whole. Along with Johnathan Hankins, the Raiders could solidify the interior of their defensive line by adding Atkins. At a minimum, if Hankins and Atkins could create pressure inside and get pressure up the middle, this could cease a quarterback’s ability to step up in the pocket, which creates a better angle for outside pass rushers to get home. The duo of Atkins and Hankins are both big bodies and would have no issues filling run gaps. If Atkins could come in and see valuable playing time with Las Vegas, and he could prove he is still an important commodity to this league.
2. Buffalo Bills
Another team that Atkins would be a schematic fit for would be the Buffalo Bills, as they are currently still running a base 4-3 defense. On one side of the interior of their defensive line, they boast former top 10 pick, Ed Oliver, and opposite to him is Vernon Butler. Atkins could be brought in as a rotational piece, and help keep those guys fresh. One other positive takeaway from bringing Atkins in would be his ability to bring Oliver under his wing. Atkins could teach him some of the things that made him such an unstoppable force for over a decade. Oliver is a highly talented player, and has the potential to be great; with the help from a veteran like Geno Atkins, some valuable knowledge could be forever instilled in the young pass-rusher’s mind. The Bills are also expected to be a highly competitive team next year, and Atkins could have a chance to win him a ring before his career is over.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
This is more of a luxury addition for the Kansas City Chiefs, as they have one of the best defensive tackles in the league in Chris Jones. Jones has been a destroyer since he came into the league, and beside Jones is Jarran Reed, a former second-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks. Atkins would be brought in to spell these guys, or in certain packages, sub Tim Ward out, push Jones outside, and line up Chris Jones, Geno Atkins, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark along the defensive front. That would be a scary front on the goal line and would give the Chiefs flexibility in short-yardage situations, as well as obvious pass-rush situations. Similar to joining the Buffalo Bills, this would give Atkins an immediate shot at winning himself a ring before his career is over.
4. Dallas Cowboys
This Dallas Cowboys defense was historically bad last season. They gave up the second-most yards in franchise history while allowing the most points ever in a Cowboy’s single-season at 473. First-year defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has his work cut out for him, as they need to add a plethora of talent across the board. In the NFL, it all begins up front, and adding some depth and talent to this defensive line would give Quinn a boost. Atkins could come in and clog up the interior as a big, strong-bodied 3 technique, who has shown he has pass rush prowess. If he can muster some of his old magic, which is yet to be seen, but if the Cowboys could bring Atkins in on a team-friendly one-year deal, it couldn’t make this defense any worse. They need playmakers and then some more playmakers. As it stands today, their interior defensive line is Neville Gallimore and Trysten Hill, that duo isn’t really making anyone shake in their boots. Atkins could be a solid presence inside of Gregory and Lawrence, and make the Cowboys defensive line formidable at the least.
Geno Atkins will sign with an NFL team at some point, but it really is to be seen with who, and for what. His value and interest around the league have to be differentiating, as what he brings to the table at this point is unknown. That being said, teams ike the Dallas Cowboys and Las Vegas Raiders make a lot of sense as they both could definitely use the upgrade along their defensive front. It would be interesting to see Atkins go sign with a competitor as well, like the Buffalo Bills or the Kansas City Chiefs, as Atkins has been one of the quiet, yet productive players in the NFL for the past decade.