The Bengals and Vontaze Burfict agreed to a three-year contract extension that will pay the Pro Bowl linebacker a maximum of $20.05 million through 2017, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press.
Burfict is making $570,000 in the final year of his original deal with Cincinnati, which took a minimal risk when it signed him as an undrafted free agent from Arizona State in 2012.
Under his extension, he’ll make $10 million through next summer, said the person speaking on condition of anonymity because the deal hasn’t been announced by the team or signed by the linebacker.
Burfict was sent home after he became ill on Wednesday. He could sign the deal when he’s feeling better.
Burfict has quickly emerged as the Bengals’ top defensive player. His extension comes two weeks after the Bengals got quarterback Andy Dalton — also entering the final year on his original deal — under contract through 2020 for up to $115 million.
Although Burfict’s original three-year deal was ending, the Bengals could have kept him as a restricted free agent next year for $3.8 million. The extension gives them some certainty with his contract over the next four seasons.
The linebacker has gotten beyond the issues that made every team wary of drafting him. He let his emotions get in the way at Arizona State, where he was repeatedly penalized and disciplined for personal fouls.
A low point was a 2010 game when Burfict head-butted Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz. Later, he was benched during a game for getting two personal fouls in the first half. After a poor showing at the 2012 combine, nobody was willing to draft him — not even in the seventh round.
The Bengals signed him for a minimal contract and he was a starter by the end of his rookie season.
Last year, he led the team in tackles 12 times, was honored as the AFC’s defensive player of the week for a 15-tackle performance against Cleveland that included a fumble return for a touchdown, and made his first Pro Bowl.