NFL Team Report - Cincinnati Bengals - INSIDE SLANT


The Cincinnati Bengals officially signed Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict on Wednesday to a contract extension running through the 2017 season.

Burfict's original contract ran through this season, and had that contract run out, he would have been a restricted free agent for 2015.

As previously reported, the contract is for four years and worth $20.05 million. The deal has a $19 million in base salaries and additional incentives for Pro Bowl appearances. His 2014 salary will be $7.6 million

Bypassed by NFL teams in the 2012 draft, Burfict has established himself as one of the most productive college free-agent signees by any NFL team in recent years. He has led the Bengals in tackles in each of his two seasons.

Burfict has played outside linebacker but had a breakout season in 2013, leading the NFL in tackles with 171 as a middle linebacker. He has started 30 of 32 regular-season games in the past two seasons.

Burfict signed a three-year, $1.441 million rookie contract in 2012 with the Bengals after he was undrafted because of concerns about his character and a subpar combine performance.

Burfict was credited by the Bengals coaching staff last season with 204 tackles, 94 more than the second-place player, and he was voted to the Pro Bowl and to a second-team spot on the Associated Press All-Pro team.

"Vontaze is a special talent; he has shown us that from his first day here," head coach Marvin Lewis said in a statement. "He is a load physically (6-foot-1, 255 pounds) 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."

Burfict also led the Bengals last season in tackles-for-loss (eight), and he tied for the front-seven lead in passes defensed (10). He had 3.0 sacks, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.

"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."

Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn said, "It's unusual to sign a player this early in his career to a contract extension, but Vontaze is a player who merits this. 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."


--Jeremy Hill isn't going to supplant Giovani Bernard as the Bengals starting running back, but when the rookie entered the game after four unproductive series Sunday night in Arizona, he made an immediate impact.

And a prolonged one, which was even more encouraging for the Bengals.

Not only were Hill's 30 snaps nearly double the 16 he had the week before, but quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Jason Campbell put the ball in his direction on more than half of those plays with 12 handoffs and five targets.

Hill finished with 48 yards on 12 carries and two catches for 10 yards.

"He played well," Dalton said. "We moved the ball well and were able to get some runs there that helped keep the chains going, and he did a good job."

Following the offense's 0 for 4 start on third-down attempts, Hill entered the game and converted a third and 1 with a powerful 5-yard run behind right tackle Kevin Zeitler. The play enabled the Bengals to continue a 13-play, 73-yard drive for the offense's first points of the game on a Mike Nugent 48-yard foal.

Then with the Bengals backed up at their own 4, Hill kick-started the next possession with 5- and 10-yard runs on back-to-back plays, leading to another field goal following a 10-play, 88-yard march.