The Bengals announced that they have signed Vontaze Burfict to a three-year contract extension through the 2020 season.
“Vontaze is still one of the young, emerging talents within the league,” said head coach Marvin Lewis in a press release. “We have worked hard at training, developing and retaining talented players. It’s pleasing that Vontaze has made this commitment to be a part of the organization going forward. It was important to reach an extension before the start of the season and we look forward to having Vontaze back with the team in a few weeks.”
Burfict, a sixth-year player, has played in 58 games with 56 starts in his Bengals career, totaling 582 tackles (386 solo), seven sacks, five interceptions, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and 28 passes defensed. He has led the team in tackles twice (in 2012-13) and placed second on the team in tackles once (2016). He was named to the Pro Bowl after the 2013 season.
According to Bengals.com, Burfict will receive “about $11 million up front, most of it in salary this year that is going to reduce the Bengals’ remaining salary cap from about $15 million to about $5 million.”
UPDATE 5:30 p.m. EST
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the deal is done: Vontaze Burfict and the Bengals have agreed to a huge three-year extension that will make him one of the NFL’s highest-paid linebackers:
Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict is signing a 3-yr $38.68m extension, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 7, 2017
Burfict has certainly earned that kind of money with his on-field play. It will be interesting to see how the contract is setup to protect the Bengals if he has any more setbacks and subsequent punishments from the NFL.
Entering the 2017 regular season, the Cincinnati Bengals have two big impending free agents set to hit the open market in 2017 who they want to re-sign. That’s tight end Tyler Eifert and linebacker Vontaze Burfict. It looks like the latter may be close to getting his extension.
According to ESPN reporter Josina Anderson, Burfict and the Bengals are working on a contract extension. With Burfict serving a three-game suspension, there’s no rush to get a deal done since he can’t even report to the team right now. He can report to the team beginning in Week 4 when the team is preparing to face the Green Bay Packers.
Burfict can’t speak with the Bengals, his agent, however, is free to negotiate with the team while maintaining contact with Burfict. That’s how the two sides are able to negotiate a new deal, even though Burfict and the Bengals can’t directly speak with each other as long as he’s suspended.
Burfict’s latest suspension came as the result of an illegal hit made during a preseason matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs. The play in question was a hit on a defenseless receiver (in the eyes of the NFL), which in this case was fullback Anthony Sherman. Because Burfict has a history of breaking the NFL’s safety rules, causing the NFL suspended him for the first five games of the 2017 season. But upon appeal, Burfict got it reduced to three games.
Still, those types of issues are why Burfict would have a very interesting market if he were to hit unrestricted free agency in 2018. He’s one of the game’s best linebackers when he’s on the field, but his issues would prevent him from getting a fair market value for a player of his caliber.
The fact that he’s still serving his suspension and the Bengals want to extend him suggests the team thinks they can re-sign him to a manageable deal. 4-3 weakside linebackers don’t make a ton of money in general compared to other linebackers, though Burfict does spend time as essentially the middle linebacker in nickel defenses.
Burfict’s role in this defense also cannot be understated. When he’s on the field, this unit can go toe-to-toe with anyone. When he’s out or not himself, it’s a major dropoff for the entire defense. Burfict may not be the best 4-3 linebacker in football, but you could argue he impacts his team as much, if not more than any other such player.
That’s why the Bengals will almost certainly match any offer he’d get in free agency, but it looks like they won’t let it get that far.