Vontaze Burfict

Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict Loses Appeal

Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict has been suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2018 season, per a league announcement. This means that Burfict has lost his appeal to overturn his ban for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Burfict is no stranger to suspensions, but this marks his first ban for PEDs. In the past, Burfict has been sidelined for violations of league safety rules. Between injuries and suspensions, Burfict has missed 28 regular season games over the past four years. That tally will climb to at least 32 this year.

Despite it all, Burfict remains one of the very best linebackers in the NFL. In 2017, Burfict managed 69 tackles and 1.5 sacks in ten games.

In theory, the suspension could have financial implications for Burfict beyond the missed paychecks. Now that he has lost his appeal, the guarantees in his three-year, $33MM contract will void. With that $11.3MM guarantee off the books, the Bengals have the ability to move on from Burfict without dead money left on the cap. The 27-year-old (28 in September) is slated to be under contract with the team through 2020.

Although he is out for the first four games of the year, Burfict will be permitted to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games. This marks the third consecutive year in which Burfict will serve a suspension to start the season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Boldin, Burfict, Mathieu, Saints

Anquan Boldin may not be done playing in the NFL, as he said today that he hasn’t made a decision on the future of his career, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Boldin signed a one-year deal with the Bills last August, but retired just two weeks later. The 37-year-old expressed some interest in returning during the 2017 season, but the Bills had no intention of releasing him. Buffalo has now done so, as it cut Boldin from the reserve/retired list this week. For what it’s worth, the Patriots and Boldin reportedly had mutual interest last September.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict is expected to argue that his four-game performance-enhancing drug suspension should be overturned given that he was using prescription medications to recover from injury after he’d already been ruled out for the season, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. If Burfict’s ban is upheld, the remaining $11.3MM guarantee on his contract will void, meaning Cincinnati could potentially move on without any financial consequences. As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, Burfict is hoping an arcane section of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement will save him, but the league is unlikely to overturn his suspension.
  • Former All Pro defensive back Tyrann Mathieu had an offer to return to the Cardinals at an $8MM salary, tweets Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. The 25-year-old Mathieu declined the overture, and instead signed with the Texans for one year and $7MM. the Mathieu was a Pro Bowler and one of the NFL’s best defensive backs as recently as 2015, but he’s struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness over the past two seasons. Last year, Mathieu managed to start all 16 games, but only graded as the league’s No. 61 cornerback among 121 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.
  • Although the Saints received a salary cap credit as a result of their Nick Fairley grievance, the grievance itself has not been settled, per Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune (Twitter link). That $3MM credit was only related to Fairley’s signing bonus, so the Saints are presumably trying to recoup a portion of Fairley’s base salary after he was forced to sit out the 2017 campaign with a heart condition. For what it’s worth, Fairley hopes to play during the upcoming season, but it’s difficult to imagine any team medically clearing him.
  • The Steelers curiously signed restricted free agent punter Jordan Berry to a one-year extension with a similar salary to the RFA tender, and Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com has explained the club’s rationale. Berry, a native Australian, would have been considered unemployed if he returned to his home country without an RFA tender in place, meaning his work authorization paperwork could have taken extra time. Given that he’s getting married this year, Berry didn’t want to deal with any confusion, so Pittsburgh obliged him by giving him a one-year deal, the value of which has sent been altered to match the original round tender figure of $1.907MM.

Bengals’ Vontaze Burfict Facing Suspension

Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict is facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s Performance Enhancing Drug policy, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). He’ll presumably appeal, though no hearing date has been set as of this writing. 

Burfict is no stranger to suspensions, but this marks his first potential ban for PEDs. In the past, Burfict has been sidelined for violations of league safety rules.

In the 2016 playoffs, Burfict was penalized for an illegal hit to the head on Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, which led to a suspension to start the 2016 season. In 2017, he was handed a five-game ban for a hit made on Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman in the preseason. That suspension was later reduced to three games.

Between injuries and suspensions, Burfict has missed 28 regular season games over the past four years. Still, he is among the very best at his position. Last year, Burfict managed 69 tackles and 1.5 sacks in his partial season.

If Burfict loses his appeal, the guarantees in his three-year, $33MM contract will void, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) notes. If that $11.3MM guarantee is wiped out, the Bengals will have the ability to move on from Burfict – if they want to – without fiscal penalty.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Browns, Haden, Suggs

Josh Gordon‘s long road back the NFL is almost complete as the team is likely to reactivate him later in the week, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Cabot reports that the team has the ability to activate him to the roster today, but it unlikely to do so in order to hold onto a roster spot.

The talented wide receiver is expected to see his first regular season action in two years when the Browns take on the Chargers on Sunday. Gordon has made his mistakes in the past, but has caused no such problem since he returned to practice last week.

With the Browns potentially finishing the year as one of the league’s worst teams ever, being able to see an impact player return is certainly some much needed good news. He’ll likely start alongside fellow wideout Corey Coleman should everything go according to plan throughout the practice week.

  • In other Browns news, head coach Hue Jackson said after practice today that the coaching staff will dicuss whether to replace rookie kicker Zane Gonzalez after his struggles continued in Week 12, reports Cabot in a separate tweet. However, Jackson did note that Gonzalez did well to bounce back and convert two field goals after he missed an attempt from 43 yards earlier in the game. Parting ways with the rookie kicker would represent another draft blunder as Cleveland used a seventh round pick in order to bring in the 22-year-old from Arizona State.
  • The Steelers managed to hold off the scuffling Packers on Sunday night football yesterday, but were still clearly exposed in the secondary by some talented playmakers and a backup quarterback. Part of the reason for the offensive display could be due to the absence of veteran cornerback Joe Haden. While the team does expect the former Brown to return, it’s unlikely that the defensive back will see the field for a few more weeks, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (Twitter link). La Canfora did add that the Week 13 status for rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster remains a little more up in the air at this point.
  • Terrell Suggs is currently playing in his 14th year in the league, though the 35-year-old is still a more than a capable puss rusher coming off the edge. However, while Suggs’ play has kept him as a valuable member of the defense, the veteran knows that his career could be winding down this season, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. Hensley notes that cutting Suggs this summer could give the Ravens an extra $4MM in cap space, but despite the harsh realities of the league Suggs knows that ultimately the NFL is a business. “I would really love to be in one place my whole career. Not many players can say they did that,” Suggs told ESPN before his 207th game for the Ravens. “But I also understand this is a business and that might not happen. I’m pretty much making my peace with it now. I’m preparing myself for it just in case. What will be, will be.” Suggs does still lead the team with 7.5 sacks and has forced three fumbles, so it should be noted that actually getting rid of the veteran edge defender could make the Baltimore defense worse. The team has made a point in drafting three young pass rushers in the last two seasons, including Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams. Nevertheless, Suggs can only play well on the field and let the chips fall where they may at this point.
  • The Bengals have avoided a suspension to one of their key defenders in linebacker Vontaze Burfict, according to Jim Owczarski of Cincinnati.com. The energetic defender was flagged for unnecessary roughness for hitting a defenseless receiver in yesterday’s win over the Browns. Burfict has made a number of boneheaded plays throughout his career, which include him getting ejected for making contact with an official and for his unsportsmanlike penalty against the Steelers earlier in the season. He’ll avoid game punishment here, but a fine is certainly possible.

Extra Points: Jets, Goodell, Burfict, Prosise

The Jets have no plans to bench Josh McCown in favor of youngster Christian Hackenberg, as NJ.com’s Connor Hughes writes. “This isn’t Triple-A,” quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates said Tuesday. “We’re going to play the best players that give us an opportunity to win at all positions. That’s our philosophy. Josh is our starter.”

Though just 1.5 games behind Buffalo for the AFC’s last wildcard spot, New York is sitting last in the East with a 4-6 record and might be better served seeing what the team has in Hackenberg or Bryce Petty sooner rather than later with McCown, at 38 and on a one-year deal, obviously not the team’s future at the position.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • League spokesman Joe Lockhart says the impetus for signing commissioner Roger Goodell to a new deal despite having 18 months remaining on his current contract were a series on notable events on the horizon, according to ESPN’s Jim Trotter (Twitter link) Those milestones include the new collective bargaining agreement in 2020 and network TV deals in 2021 and 2022. “Sense that getting an extension beyond those dates was in the best interest of (NFL),” Lockhart said.
  • Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict will not be suspended for making contact with a referee in Sunday’s game vs. Tennessee, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. Instead, it will be reviewed using the standard process for a possible fine. Burfict was ejected from the game after picking up a pair of personal-foul penalties on one drive midway through the second quarter.
  • 49ers safety Adrian Colbert could possibly miss the team’s upcoming game with Seattle after breaking his thumb vs. New York, coach Kyle Shanahan tells reporters and ESPN’s Nick Wagoner (Twitter link). The injury, which will require surgery, was sustained early in the first quarter but Colbert managed to play the rest of the way. Should he not be ready for the Seahawks, Antone Exum and Dexter McCoil are potential replacements, according to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco (Twitter link).
  • Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson is happy to have left Cleveland and hopes Jacksonville can “hang 40 on them” when the team’s meet up this weekend, writes ESPN’s Michael DiRocco. The veteran defender spent his first four seasons with the Browns before joining the Jags in 2016 and apparently still harbors some ill feelings to the organization, which he also criticized for not drafting Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson.
  • Seahawks running back C.J. Prosise could return in time for the postseason, head coach Pete Carroll told reporters, including Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times. The coach said the injury will have Prosise sidelined six weeks, but he must sit out eight games after being placed on IR.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/28/17

Here are today’s minor moves.

  • To make room on the roster for Vontaze Burfict‘s activation from a three-game suspension, the Bengals waived linebacker Hardy Nickerson Jr. The son of the former All-Pro linebacker, Nickerson signed with the Bengals in May as a UDFA. He made the team out of training camp and played in each of Cincinnati’s first three games this season.
  • The Raiders signed linebacker Boseko Lokombo to their practice squad and released defensive lineman Max Valles from that unit.

North Notes: Burfict, Bears, Packers, Decker

Vontaze Burfict‘s Bengals contract calls for a $2MM roster bonus if he’s on the team by March 31 of next year, Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. The Bengals protected themselves heavily with the Burfict extension, one that could pay out $33.234MM through 2020, since the deal comes with just $3.3MM guaranteed. Speaking publicly about the extension for the first time, Burfict didn’t elaborate much about his decision to bypass free agency for a largely non-guaranteed deal. Although, he did say he appreciates the Bengals’ support in agreeing to take him on long-term given his suspension history. “I hope so,” Burfict said (via Owczarski) of the feeling of support. “I give my blood, sweat and tears out on the field. It’s vice versa. I appreciate everything they do for me and my family and like I said, let’s go get a win on Sunday. Now we’re in for four more years, so we’re past it now. So now obviously just win some games.”

The Bengals reinstated Burfict on Thursday.

Here’s the latest from the North divisions on a night when their most storied rivalry takes center stage.

  • The BearsTarik Cohen pursuit began when Ryan Pace‘s top southeastern scout declared the then-North Carolina A&T running back was his favorite player to watch, over all of the SEC prospects he observed, and the Chicago GM soon became enamored as well, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (video link). The Bears selected several small-school talents this year, with second-round tight end Adam Shaheen being the first, but Cohen — a fourth-rounder — has played an impact role from the start.
  • While Cohen will receive his first chance to display the elusiveness that enticed the Bears to a national audience, the Packers will be down several key players. Both starting tackles — David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga — are out, and Mike Daniels will miss the Week 4 tilt as well. The Packers are already down would-be backup options in Don Barclay, Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy — each on IR — so Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com tweets a four-guard lineup could be on tap. Justin McCray, who started at tackle for Bakhtiari in Week 2, and fellow rookie Adam Pankey join second-year player Lucas Patrick in the mix to protect Aaron Rodgers on Thursday. Each of those players entered the league as a UDFA. The Packers played without both starting tackles against the Falcons, with Murphy and McCray receiving the replacement starts.
  • The Bears aren’t judging Mike Glennon in their impending quarterback swap but rather are monitoring Mitch Trubisky to determine when the rookie will be ready to take over, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes. Glennon has struggled during his first three starts, and Biggs categorizes the season’s plan — once based around Trubisky redshirting as a rookie — as a week-to-week arrangement.
  • Ka’Deem Carey‘s Bears injury settlement was worth $273,529, Biggs reports. The Bears placed the backup running back on IR just before the season, and the settlement came shortly after.
  • Not known for particularly expansive pressers, Jim Caldwell succinctly assessed Taylor Decker‘s status. The fourth-year Lions coach said Decker is “progressing towards” a midseason return, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. The left tackle was given a four- to six-month timetable upon a labrum tear in June. Midseason would fall in that range. Greg Robinson currently mans the left edge for the Lions.
  • Tests done on Danny Shelton‘s injured calf don’t look to reveal a serious malady, Rapoport tweets. The Browns defensive tackle injured the calf in practice Wednesday. He has not missed a game in his three-year career.

Saints, Bengals Get Roster Exemptions For Willie Snead, Vontaze Burfict

The Saints and Bengals have been given roster exemptions for wide receiver Willie Snead and linebacker Vontaze Burfict, respectively, as they return from suspension, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Both exemptions expire on Thursday, so New Orleans and Cincinnati will each need to clear a roster spot by that time.Willie Snead (Vertical)

Snead, 24, was suspended three games following an offseason DUI arrest. A former undrafted free agent, Snead has been a revelation for the Saints since entering the league out of Ball State in 2015. In two seasons in New Orleans, Snead has averaged 70 receptions for 940 yards and four touchdowns. An exclusive rights free agent in 2017, Snead could potentially be in line for a new contract.

New Orleans is 1-2 after a win against the division rival Panthers on Sunday, but the club’s problems haven’t come on offense. Instead, it’s the Saints’ defense (31st in DVOA heading into Week 3) that’s been the team’s Achilles heel. However, Snead will give New Orleans another dimension on offense as the team seeks to replace the production void left by Brandin Cooks, who was traded to the Patriots in the spring.

Burfict, meanwhile, was originally handed a five-game ban for an illegal preseason hit on Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman, but that suspension was originally reduced to just three contests. In the meantime, the Bengals extended Burfict through the 2020 campaign on a three-year, $33.234MM deal. However, the specifics of that contract aren’t nearly as impressive as initial reports suggested.

Like Snead with the Saints, Burfict’s return won’t help the Bengals’ true woes, which have mostly occurred on the offensive side of the ball. But Burfict — whom Pro Football Focus graded as the NFL’s No. 6 linebacker a season ago — will give Cincinnati another playmaker on defense, and allow the club to push Vincent Rey back into a reserve role.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Browns, Bengals, Redskins

Kevin Hogan will serve as the Browns‘ backup quarterback on Sunday instead of Cody Kessler, as head coach Hue Jackson explained to reporters, including Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. While the shifting of reserve signal-caller duties isn’t necessarily earth-shattering news on its own, Kessler’s demotion could potentially have after-effects. If Hogan shows well as Cleveland’s No. 2 quarterback, Kessler would theoretically make for a relatively attractive trade candidate. Only 24 years old, Kessler started eight games and completed 65.6% of his passes as a rookie. The Browns, clearly, haven’t been afraid of dealing current assets for future picks.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • While Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict‘s extension was announced as a three-year, $38.68MM deal, the specifics of the pact aren’t as impressive, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. The only fully guaranteed portion of the contract is Burfict’s $3.3MM signing bonus, while $2.25MM annually is tied to gameday active roster bonuses, an especially hefty total given Burfict’s injury history. And while Burfict’s 2017 base salary will now increase from $3.95MM to $7.936MM, Burfict’s impending three-game suspension will ensure that he loses $1.4MM of that new total.
  • As part of the extension that will keep him with the Redskins through 2019, running back Chris Thompson has agreed to rework his 2017 salary, according to Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post (Twitter link). Originally scheduled to earn a base salary of $2.746MM, Thompson will now take home ~$2.5MM in total compensation for the upcoming season, but will also bring in a signing bonus of $3MM. Additionally, Thompson can earn $250K in roster bonuses in 2018-19, while $1.125MM is available in annual incentives during that same period.
  • Offensive lineman Byron Bell earned his third and final $150K bonus of the offseason by making weight prior to the start of the Cowboys‘ regular season, reports Todd Archer of ESPN.com. Bell scored the same weight bonus (for tipping the scales at fewer than 320 pounds) when minicamp and training camp, respectively, got underway. Signed to a one-year deal in March, Bell will also earn a $1MM base salary, a $250K signing bonus, and $300K in per-game roster bonuses. The 28-year-old will serve as the top reserve lineman on one of the league’s best front fives.
  • Free agent punter Brock Miller worked out for the 49ers on Thursday, according to Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area (Twitter link), but it doesn’t appear that San Francisco will be signing Miller at this time. Instead, the left-footed Miller was brought in to help the 49ers’ special teams unit prepare for Panthers punter Michael Palardy (another lefty). The 49ers will go forward with punter Bradley Pinion, while Miller — who inked a futures deal with San Francisco in January — will continue to hit the workout circuit.

Bengals Sign Vontaze Burfict To Extension

This developed fast. The Bengals and Vontaze Burfict agreed to a three-year extension worth $38.68MM, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Word of an extension for the polarizing linebacker surfaced this afternoon, and it looks like the longtime Bengals second-level standout will be staying in Cincinnati for a while.

This deal will make Burfict the highest-paid 4-3 outside linebacker in the game on a per-year basis. It tops Jamie Collins‘ Browns pact, which is worth $12.5MM per year. The 26-year-old Burfict’s deal will be for $12.89MM AAV.

And despite Burfict set to serve a three-game suspension to start another season, he will see an additional $7MM in 2017, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). A $3.3MM signing bonus will come Burfict’s way as well, per Rapoport.

A starter since coming into the league in 2012 as a UDFA, Burfict has been a key part of Cincinnati’s defense and run of playoff appearances. Burfict, who rated as Pro Football Focus’ No. 6 linebacker last season, has started 58 games — of a possible 80 — in his career. But he will be under Bengals control for the remainder of the decade. Burfict was set to be a UFA after this season, so this re-up will tie him to Cincinnati through the 2020 campaign.

The former Arizona State linebacker has obviously brought a swarm of negative attention to the franchise, and he won’t begin his sixth NFL season until October after being suspended for a preseason hit, but it’s clear now the Bengals continue to view him as a cornerstone talent.

Only three 4-3 outside ‘backers even earn eight figures annually, so the Bengals are paying a premium for a player who continually tests the NFL’s boundaries on in-game violence. Burfict will miss the first three games of a season for the second straight year. Nevertheless, he becomes only the sixth non-rush linebacker to enter the $10MM-per-year club. A one-time Pro Bowler, Burfict will also earn more than three-time first-team All-Pro Luke Kuechly annually.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.