Carlos Dunlap wants to be the best defensive end in the NFL, and he now has millions of more reasons to chase that goal.
The 24-year-old Bengal, whose contract was set to expire after the 2013 season, signed a $40 million deal Tuesday that will keep him in stripes through 2018.
“We’ve been talking for a few months now,” Dunlap said, “but it didn’t get to be crunch time until (Monday). I didn’t expect that we could possibly get a deal done.”
Dunlap’s deal could hurt the Bengals chances of signing his partner at defensive end, Michael Johnson. The team put the franchise tag on him in the offseason, and the deadline passed Tuesday without Johnson signing an extension of his own. The star of the defensive line, Pro Bowl tackle Geno Atkins, is also entering the final year of a four-year contract.
Dunlap was a second-round pick and Atkins was a fourth-round pick in 2010. Johnson was a third-round pick in 2009.
“We’re grown men,” Dunlap said. “We understand the business side of things. Mike and I are both friends. We kept in contact all offseason. I was hoping for him to get a deal done. I didn’t know I was going to get a deal done. Me and Geno and Mike want to get a deal done and stay together for years to come.”
Dunlap, a native of North Charleston, S.C., who played at Florida, had six sacks in 2012 and 20 in the last three seasons. He led the team with four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
“One of our key offseason goals was to continue signing and extending our key players, and the signing of Carlos is another positive step,” head coach Marvin Lewis said. “Over his three seasons with us, Carlos has continued to progress and develop. He has demonstrated the ability to be productive as a three-down player, and we are glad to have him committed to be a part of our future.”
Dunlap said he celebrated the new deal Monday night. He was back to working out Tuesday morning like it was just another day. Training camp starts July 25. He has battled preseason injuries in his first three seasons in the league, but he called them fluke injuries and isn’t worried he’ll have similar problems this season because he’s learned from those experiences.
“I stepped up my off-field activities,” Dunlap said. “I started Pilates. I spend more time in treatment. I get more massages.”
The goal for Dunlap is “obviously to be the best player at my position. I’m headed in the right direction. I’m not there yet. I’m working toward that. This is a steppingstone for me. It’s more motivation having job security, knowing where you’re going to be, knowing they have faith in you. This is not an ordinary deal by far. I’m just excited about this season and pray that I’ll be healthy.”