2017 could be the final year for Vontaze Burfict in tiger stripes if the Cincinnati Bengals do not act soon. His contract will be up at the end of the upcoming season, and if the team does not re-sign him before March 14, he’ll be allowed to sign with any team he wants. On the plus side, the Bengals have plenty of time to work out a deal with Burfict to keep him in Cincinnati. It could come before the 2017 begins or after the season but before free agency gets underway in 2018. With the linebacker corps going through a lot of changes, re-signing the unit’s top player seems like it should be an extremely high priority this offseason. But, there is also an argument for the Bengals exercising some patience in re-signing the one-time Pro Bowler.
The argument for waiting to re-sign Burfict
Re-signing players before their contracts run out can be dangerous. Given the multitude of on-field problems Burfict has endured, largely resulting in fines but recently resulting in a three-game suspension, does the team really want to commit to a player who has been in trouble so often, before they must?
Burfict’s career can be perfectly summed up by his actions from the fourth quarter of the team’s January 2016 wild card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Burfict essentially handed the team an opportunity to win the game with a late interception, but ripped that opportunity away by making contact with Antonio Brown’s head and drawing an unnecessary roughness penalty. The tackle on Brown — even if unintended — broke the NFL’s safety rules and was the final straw, causing Burfict to open the 2016 season with the aforementioned suspension.
The Bengals will tell you Burfict meant nothing malicious; it was just an honest mistake and knee-jerk reaction to leap for the ball. But, he has made those types of mistakes far too often and puts the team in jeopardy. That said, he’s an All-Pro caliber player and a leader on the Bengals’ defense; the reason he makes those types of plays is because he’s often acting and making moves toward the ball before he can take a second to think. With that said, the team is far better with him and his off-the-charts football IQ on-the-field.
In 2016, his behavior improved on-the-field with far less questionable plays. Though, there were still a few incidents for which the league took note and the team may want to see how he acts in 2017 before throwing millions of dollars his way. If he can assure the front office he is taking all of the necessary steps toward improving his decision making, it would add some insurance and likely some money toward his next contract. But in this case, the money would be worth it.
The argument for re-signing Burfict as soon as possible
It should go without saying the Bengals do not want to lose Burfict. Losing both Karlos Dansby and Rey Maualuga this offseason means Burfict is the only starter left on the team from last season. His leadership and experience are invaluable in this period of transition, not to mention his talent would be nearly impossible to replace.
If the Bengals wait too long to renew his contract, any attempts to gain leverage could backfire spectacularly. We all know Burfict is an extremely talented player. Barring injury, there is a good chance he will have an impressive season—if not his best yet—in 2017 if he can keep his act together. And the Bengals will undoubtedly be watching for that. If he’s not re-signed before the season begins, his market value will either tank or soar due to his play this season, and there isn’t much of in between. The Bengals might as well make their move now while they can still negotiate a more team-friendly deal with their star linebacker.
If the team doesn’t act now, the Bengals risk another team luring him away with a more lucrative contract. It may not seem like it now, but a more high-profile city could also be of interest for Burfict as NFL fans outside of Cincinnati love to hate the Bengals linebacker and he may receive more love with a bigger market team. Steelers fans like to say Burfict is a dirty player, but how much would they love to have him on the roster in Pittsburgh?
Despite being undrafted and developing a sinister reputation, Burfict has survived this long with the Bengals by proving he is the team’s best linebacker time and time again. How easy will it be to replace his impact if he is lured elsewhere? Can the Bengals really afford to see him potentially end up with another team in the division?
The Bengals must re-sign him as soon as possible.
What do you think, Bengals fans?
Should the Bengals re-sign Vontaze Burfict now or wait until 2018?
This poll is closed
Re-sign him A.S.A.P!
Wait to see what happens in 2017.