Bengals deal with Burfict win-win for team and player

The Bengals and linebacker Vontaze Burfict are now officially joined at the hip for the next four seasons.

The Bengals have rewarded Vontaze Burfict for his impact play.

Pat Lovell/USA TODAY Sports

CINCINNATI -- The Bengals and linebacker Vontaze Burfict are now officially joined at the hip for the next four seasons.

A four-year contract extension that was first reported to have been agreed upon last week has been finalized and filed with the NFL offices, the Bengals announced Wednesday afternoon. Burfict led the league in tackles last season and is the top player on a defense that was ranked No. 3 in yards allowed last season. He is just in his third season but was due to enter the final year of his contract this season before the extension was worked out.

Burfict signed with the Bengals as an undrafted college free agent in 2012 after a junior season at Arizona State in which his attitude and discipline came into question. Questions were further raised when he performed poorly at pre-draft workouts, including being overweight at the NFL Scouting Combine. Those two factors cost Burfict draft status and a lot of money.

He's making up the money portion of those losses with this deal. Burfict was originally scheduled to make $570,000 this season but has reported this extension is worth more than $20 million, including nearly $10 million in new money through salary and bonuses by next spring.

"It's great to have this deal done and know I'm going to be here beyond this season," Burfict said. "We can have a great defense again this year, even better than the last couple years."

Burfict was credited with 204 tackles last season by the Bengals coaching staff, more than the 171 he was given by official game stats but still a whopping number of stops. He also had eight tackles for loss and 10 pass breakups, a testament to his versatility playing the run and dropping into pass coverage.

"Vontaze is a special talent; he has shown us that from his first day here," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "He is a load physically (6-1, 255) and he's extremely competitive, but what really makes him stand out is the instinct and feel he has for the game. It's something born in him, you can't coach a player to naturally react the way he does in all situations. This signing is a great move for the future of our defense."

The length of the deal should work in Burfict's advantage as well. He turns 24 years old next month, meaning he'll be just 28 and still very much in his prime when the deal is up. Should his career continue on an upward trend, he'll have plenty of leverage on his side when the next negotiations begin.

"It's unusual to sign a player this early in his career to a contract extension, but Vontaze is a player who merits this," said Katie Blackburn, Bengals executive vice-president. "He has proven to be an exceptional find for us, and we are happy to reward him now for his accomplishments. It's good for him and good for our team."

The signing of Burfict is the second major extension for the Bengals this preseason. They previously signed quarterback Andy Dalton to a deal that would keep Dalton in Cincinnati through the 2020 season and could pay him up to $96 million. After exercising the fifth-year option on wide receiver A.J. Green's rookie deal, an option worth $10 million in 2015, the Bengals now have time to start working on a long-term deal for one of the NFL's top receiving threats.