It's rare to see an NFL lineman with the longevity that Domata Peko has had.
Drafted in the fourth round out of Michigan State in the 2006 NFL Draft, Peko is now in the midst of his 11th season with the Bengals. Making it 10 years in the NFL as a full-time starter as a lineman is very rare.
Making Peko's streak even more impressive is it's been with the same team. This has Peko in line to finish his career with several Bengals records, one of which he just set. During Sunday’s tie with Washington, Peko recorded his 500th career tackle, making him just the second Bengals lineman to ever reach that feat.
“It’s cool, man,” Peko told Bengals.com. “I wonder how many tackles were around to make 500 tackles? Think about that . . . Bringing down these guys 500 times?”
Pro Football Reference has Peko with 261 solo tackles and 244 assisted tackles, giving him 501 career stops. That trails only Tim Krumrie’s 1,017 total tackles. It’s pretty good company to be in, and it’s a tribute to Peko’s durability and longevity in the NFL.
But while Peko has spent the last 10 years with Cincinnati, it's clear that there won't be many, if any, more after 2016. Peko is clearly declining on the field as Father Time begins to catch up with the 31-year-old (who turns 32 on Nov. 27).
In eight games this season, Peko has just 23 tackles, no sacks and one pass deflection. This, despite playing in 59 percent of the defensive snaps this season, a very high rate for a guy who is more of a nose tackle.
Perhaps even more alarming is, despite all of those snaps, Peko has failed to keep the Bengals from ranking near the bottom of every rushing category, while being the man in the middle of this unit.
Cincinnati currently ranks 24th in rushing defense, 22nd in yards per carry allowed (4.4 avg.), and have already allowed eight rushing scores this season, the same number they surrender in all of 2015.
Pro Football Focus has Peko ranked as the 86th-best interior defender (includes 4-3 and 3-4 defensive tackles). He’s currently the 20th highest-paid defensive tackle, according to Spotrac, so it’s pretty clear the Bengals are not getting a return on their investment, at least on the field.
And with the Bengals having younger options like Pat Sims, Andrew Billings (currently on Injured Reserve) and DeShawn Williams next to Geno Atkins, it's hard to see Peko remaining in Cincinnati beyond 2016, the final year of his current deal, at least at his current salary.
It’s also possible Peko decides to hang up his cleats after this season and Cincinnati won’t have to worry about re-signing him. Whatever happens, the Bengals can’t keep giving Peko the amount of money and snaps they are if they want to fix this defense.
But with that said, congrats to Peko on his 500th tackle, and having it come in London! Hopefully his play for the rest of the season improves enough to warrant him being a starter for this team.