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Report: Domata Peko’s agent has talked to Bengals regarding a contract extension

Sunday may have been Domata Peko’s last game in Bengals stripes, but, the team reportedly is at least interested in discussing his return.

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Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

Domata Peko is part of a long list of Bengals who are set to become free agents in March.

After 11 years in the NFL, all spent with the Bengals, Peko could retire after this season. But, it doesn’t seem like that will be the case for the veteran defensive tackle.

Per ESPN’s Katherine Terrell, Peko said his agent has been in touch with the Bengals “a few times” about a new contract.

This season, Peko had 37 tackles and 3 passes defended. He had no sacks this season, which is only the second time in his 11 year career that he's failed to record at least a half sack. The other time it happened was 2009, a season during which Peko only played 11 games (and the only time he hasn’t played a full 16-game season in his NFL career). Peko actually had a career-high five sacks in 2015, so the lack of pressure he applied this season is somewhat surprising. But, Peko is now 32-years-old and not the pass rusher he once was when drafted in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft. If the Bengals were to bring back their veteran leader on the defensive line for another season, Peko would be best served as a backup. This season, he hasn’t played effectively enough, especially with the amount of double and triple teams Geno Atkins commands opposite him. Peko should be doing more with his time on the field, but age is catching up with him. Pro Football Focus has Peko ranked as their 103rd interior defender, and they gave him a pitiful 42.6 grade on the season, which qualified as poor. Among the Bengals' defensive starters, only Michael Johnson ranks worse.

If Peko is brought back next season, you’d have to hope the intention would be for him to serve as nothing more than a backup and veteran presence in the locker room. The Bengals simply need a better player who can get to the quarterback more effectively and benefit from Atkins’ dominance on the other side of the line. The Bengals could already have that person on their payroll as Andrew Billings was drafted in 2016 with the idea that he’d become Peko’s replacement. Unfortunately, Billings’ rookie season was derailed by a training camp meniscus injury and he never got to play a game this season, even in the preseason. Time will tell if Billings is the long-term replacement for Peko, but whether it’s him or someone else, Peko should not be starting for a playoff contending team in 2017. And the Bengals will hopefully be a playoff contending team in 2017.

One thing Peko remains to this day is durable. Peko leads all NFL defensive tackles with 111 straight games played, all of which were starts. The next leading ironman is Cam Thomas, who has played in 95 straight games, though not all 95 were starts. Ndamukong Suh is third on the list with 82 consecutive games, all of which were starts.

Peko had his family in attendance for Sunday’s game, and spoke after the game regarding his future.

“Ah man. It was a really emotional game for me. I had my kids and family here with me today,” Peko said. “I was happy they got to see me play. Hopefully we can get something (a contract) done, and I can wear these stripes until I retire. I feel like I’ve still got some gas in the tank left. God has blessed me with strength and speed. I have my health, and I’m appreciative of that.”

If Sunday was Peko’s final game with the Bengals, he ends his career in Cincinnati with 516 tackles, 18.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 12 passes defended. Peko is only the second player in Bengals history to notch 500 or more tackles.

“I appreciate everyone in this locker room just having my back,” Peko said on Sunday. “This team knows that I’ll do whatever it takes for them. I love this team, and I love this City. Who Dey!”

Peko has had a great career with the Bengals, but we’ll need to wait and see if his NFL career will continue in Cincinnati.