Updated: 3/27/14, 3 p.m.
ORLANDO, Fla. -Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko signed a two-year extension Thursday that would keep one of the most popular and recognizable players in club history in Cincinnati through at least the 2016 season.
The team reached the deal at the NFL annual meeting as it begins implementing its strategy of putting their biggest deals into their own players. Both Bengals president Mike Brown and head coach Marvin Lewis said during the meetings they hope to lock up quarterback Andy Dalton sooner rather than later. Also believed to be on the radar are a pair of Pro Bowlers, wide receiver A.J. Green and WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
Peko, the de facto defensive captain who has been an anchor for a top 10 defense in four of the last five seasons, had been working on a deal averaging $5.5 million (according to spotrac.com) and history would suggest his guarantee is for more than the $4.3 million the web site says he's due this season.
His value could be seen in each of the head coaches' media breakfasts here at these meetings. On Tuesday at the AFC buffet, Lewis called Peko one of his "top of the charts" leaders. In the NFC gathering on Wednesday, his old defensive coordinator, new Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, said Peko is the best nose tackle he's ever had.
"Peko is a great player. A fantastic player. I love Peko. His character, his toughness, his leadership. All he cares about is winning," Zimmer said. "He doesn't care about himself. He asks me every single week, 'Coach, how should l play this guy?' Every single week. People don't know it, he's one of the best leaders in the room. Guys go to his house. He had a great year. He was always good for me."
Peko is a 6-3, 322-pound rock of consistency and has been ever since he came into the NFL as a fourth-rounder in 2006 out of Michigan State He's missed just five games and his current streak of 64 straight starts is second in the NFL among defensive tackles. If his streak keeps going through what is believed to be the two-year extension, he'll have played 171 games, second of most any Bengals defensive lineman behind nose tackle Tim Krumrie's 188 from 1983-94. Meanwhile, he's a civic staple as a frequent United Way spokesman.
"Domata has really embraced playing for the Bengals and the Bengals like him," said Craig Domann, Peko's agent. "He really likes Cincinnati, he's a mentor, he likes the guys on the team, he's got a great relationship with the fan base, and on top of it he's been a very productive guy."
Peko's signature flowing hair could even be seen on the offensive side of the ball last year. According to profootballfocus.com he had 16 snaps as a short-yardage and goal-line fullback with 11 of the plays mostly successful runs.
"Domata has been a significant and productive player for our defense for many years now, and we are excited to extend his time here even longer," Lewis said in Thursday's news release. "He is a leader among our veterans and a mentor for our younger players, and securing his future as a Bengal through the next three seasons is another positive step in continuing to improve our team."