The Cincinnati Bengals want star linebacker Vontaze Burfict to stick around for many years to come, and Burfict reciprocates those sentiments. That is why the latest report of the Bengals’ front office and Burfict’s representatives closing in on a contract extension is not too shocking. It is a move that will finally pay Burfict what he deserves while keeping the heart of the Bengal defense intact for years to come.
Burfict, one of the most veracious defenders in the league, went undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft before signing with the Bengals as an undrafted college free agent. His stock plummeted as reports of a bad attitude and character issues circulated about him. Teams avoided him like the plague aside from Marvin Lewis and the Bengals, the team that immediately reached out to him in the moments following the pick of Mr. Irrelevant.
Overall, 31 teams passed on Burfict, the 2013 NFL leader in tackles with 171. He wasn’t a first-round draft pick, and he wasn’t even a seventh round draft pick; he was an undrafted free agent who entered the league with a chip on his shoulder. It was the neglect and wrongful perception that created that chip on Burfict’s shoulder that will undoubtedly make him one of the NFL’s highest paid linebackers.
So how does an undrafted free agent go from running a 5.09 40-yard dash to negotiating a top-tier contract? Determination and focus help while being led and coached by two father-like figures in Lewis and Mike Zimmer. Through their guidance and Burfict’s determination, the former draft enigma has turned into the undisputed leader of one of the league’s top defenses.
It’s a success story that gives hope to the hundreds of undrafted free agents who signed with teams over the past week. It’s a story that shows how lifelong dreams can be reached through determination and hard work, despite the circumstances.
For the Bengals, it is yet another testament to their scouting and coaching staffs. Their ability to recognize talent and develop it into productive NFL players has resulted in the creation of one of the league’s deepest rosters.
As Mike Brown and his staff negotiate the terms of Burfict’s well-earned contract, one thing is certain; the Bengals will pay Burfict as the All-Pro that he has become. These negotiations are more proof to the commitment of the Bengals’ desire to develop and reward their own players instead of focusing their growth on free agency. With recent contracts such as those given to Carlos Dunlap, Leon Hall, Geno Atkins, Domata Peko, Andre Smith and forthcoming contracts for Andy Dalton and AJ Green,the Bengals are setting a precedent for the rest of the NFL.
And for the Bengals, what could be more comforting than knowing Burfict will be anchoring the defense for the majority of the next decade?