The Cincinnati Bengals won’t be bringing back Domata Peko.
Instead, the long-time defensive tackle is signing with the Denver Broncos, according to Mike Klis of The Denver Post.
Huge day for John Elway: Broncos have agreed to terms on 2-year deals with Bengals DT Domata Peko and Colts DT Zach Kerr. #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) March 11, 2017
The Denver Post’s Nicki Jhabvala adds it’s a two-year deal that pays Peko like a decent starter.
Domata Peko's 2-year deal is worth $7.5 million, with $3.8 million guaranteed in the first year.— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) March 11, 2017
The Minnesota Vikings were also rumored to be in the running for Peko. It seemed like they were the biggest threat to lure Peko away since his former defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer, is now the head coach in Minnesota.
But it appears Denver swooped in and scooped up the long-time Bengal, who originally came to Cincy via a fourth-round pick out of Michigan State in the 2006 NFL Draft. Since then, Peko has been a full-time starter almost every season, including last year when he started all 16 games and registered 37 tackles, three pass deflections and no sacks.
Big run-stuffing tackles like Peko don’t usually make much of an impact in the pass rush, but Peko hardly contributed there in the later years of his career, and he wasn’t exactly great against the run either.
That’s why the Bengals showed little interest in bringing Peko back this offseason, though there was some thought the team could bring him back to mentor Andrew Billings, who’s expected to take over that spot next to Geno Atkins.
Now, Billings is the early favorite to take that job, even though he missed all of 2016 with a torn meniscus. Veteran tackle Pat Sims will also be in the running for this job. It’s possible the Bengals draft another tackle in this year’s NFL Draft, though they shouldn’t feel pressured to with Billings and Sims on the roster.
Brandon Thompson can also move down to that spot, though he’s more of a backup behind Atkins. The Bengals need a guy who can stuff the run and really control the middle of the trenches, something Billings and Sims appear more suited for.
Peko leaving also means the Bengals will be losing their two longest-tenured players in the same offseason. Peko and left tackle Andrew Whitworth both joined the Bengals in 2006, and Whitworth just left to join the L.A. Rams.