The Bengals defensive line has consistently been among the NFL's best for much of Domata Peko's career in stripes.
Now entering his 11th NFL season, Peko figures to once again be the full-time starting nose tackle for a Cincinnati defense, which is projected to be a top-10 unit. Peko is a mammoth in the middle who consistently eats up blockers, which allows guys like Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson to get favorable matchups and destroy offensive game plans.
That kind of dirty work is while you’ll rarely see Peko make an impact in the box score. As long as the other three defensive lineman are producing, there’s a good chance Peko is helping that effort.
However, 2016 could be the last we see of Peko in a Bengals uniform with his contract set to expire in 2017. It would be tough to watch such a tenured player leave Cincinnati having never won after the regular season ends.
Hopefully, Peko can help the Bengals finally break through in the playoffs and make a run to the Super Bowl this year.
Weight: 325 pounds
College: Michigan State
Hometown: Pago Pago, American Samoa
Experience: 11th-Year Player
Peko is firmly entrenched as the Bengals' starting nose tackle, but his stock is trending downward with his contract expiring next offseason. With Pat Sims being re-signed to a two-year deal this offseason, he should take some of Peko's reps this year.
Sims can play both the nose and three-technique, not to mention he's looked like the better tackle at times during his Bengals career. There's also the potential return of Brandon Thompson, who’s likely to open the season on PUP. If he comes off it and makes the 53-man roster later in the regular season, he too should take some of Peko's snaps.
It doesn't help that Peko turns 32 in November, an age at which we rarely see defensive tackles perform well. Then again, Peko has had a rare level of durability during his NFL career.
Peko is tied with Tyson Alualu for the lead among all defensive tackles with 96 consecutive games played. Peko also leads all NFL defensive tackles with 96 straight starts. Ndamukong Suh (67) is next up list in terms of consecutive starts.
That shows just how amazingly durable Peko is, but at what point does father time begin catching up with him?
There's no question that Peko will be on the Bengals roster this year. His spot has been locked in for awhile now, but that may not hold true beyond 2016.
Peko is currently set to hit free agency next year, though I would not be surprised if the Bengals give him a one-year extension like they did with Andrew Whitworth last year. The likelihood of that increased when Andrew Billings went down with a season-ending knee injury during training camp.
Billings was their heir apparent to Peko, but until he can show the coaching staff he's worthy of that, they'll probably try and keep Peko on the roster.