According to The St. Paul Pioneer Press' Chris Tomasson, the Vikings are showing interest in Peko. Tomasson also notes that Cincinnati is still in the mix, but Peko’s long-time team will face competition to retain his services.
Source says #Vikings have reached out to reps of Cincy FA DT Domata Peko. Also in mix are Cincy, Philly, SF. Peko is a Mike Zimmer favorite.— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) March 8, 2017
Domata Peko, 32, generally nose tackle but source said would have interest in being rotation guy behind Linval Joseph if reunited w/ Zimmer— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) March 8, 2017
Tomasson notes the Vikings, Eagles and 49ers as being interested in Peko, in addition to the Bengals. Minnesota would seem to be the most logical team for Peko to sign with if he leaves Cincinnati. Former Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer loves Peko’s leadership and having him as presence in the middle of his defense, something Minnesota is lacking at defensive tackle.
The Eagles will also likely be in the market for a defensive tackle as impending free agent Bennie Logan is about to land a lucrative contract, possibly with a different team.
The 49ers need help throughout their defense, and Peko could find a nice role there. It’s hard to see Peko leaving a perennial playoff team like the Bengals to sign with the 49ers, who are several years away from just being a .500-level football team.
The Bengals badly need to move on from Peko if they insist on him being a starter who gets 30-40 snaps per game, a role that he been in for much of his career in stripes, but one he’s also struggled in.
Most nose tackles aren’t meant to play as often as Peko does, so it’s not entirely on him for his shortcomings, but the Bengals must find a better solution this year, whether it’s with an in-house candidate or through the draft.
There has been talk that Peko could be brought back to serve as more of a mentor for Andrew Billings, who the team remains high on despite Billings missing all of his rookie season with a torn meniscus. If the Bengals are truly going to bring back Peko to use him as a backup, that wouldn’t be terrible. But, it’s hard to believe that’s really how the Bengals would use him, based on how the team has treated and played veterans in the past.
We already know how this franchise and coaching staff is about sitting veterans and/or cutting into their snap count. If Peko is brought back, he’ll probably end up getting his usual 30-plus snaps per game, and the Bengals’ on-field results will be mostly the same.
Besides, veteran tackle Pat Sims is more than capable of taking Peko’s snaps and being as effective with them. There’s also Brandon Thompson set to return after missing all of 2016 while recovering from a torn ACL.
It’s time for the Bengals to move on from Peko, and it sounds like other teams’ interest in the 11 year veteran could force that to happen this offseason. Peko has had a great career in stripes (even if in recent years his play has been subpar) and whatever happens won’t take that away. But, the Bengals need to get younger and more athletic on defense and keeping Peko around on the roster won’t help that cause.