According to multiple media reports, No. 55 is a big number.
Vontaze Burfict has now officially gone from rags to riches.
Tossed $1,000 for signing with the Bengals as an undrafted free agent two years ago, Burfict is now set to get what is believed to be $10 million in the next six months after agreeing to a four-year extension that keeps him at the helm of the Cincinnati defense through 2017.
Indications are the deal, which has been announced by ESPN and NFL.com but not confirmed by the Bengals, is to be signed and announced Thursday since Burfict was sent home sick after Wednesday morning's walk through. The Bengals don't comment on contracts until they are signed.
The Bengals have turned the preseason into their own version of the NFL's March Madness of free agency, except they've signed their own players to the mega deals that greet free agents when the league year starts in March. Two weeks ago the Bengals extended quarterback Andy Dalton for six years in a deal that gives him $25 million over the next two years.
Just before the start of training camp in July of 2013, the Bengals inked defensive end Carlos Dunlap on a five-year, $40 million extension that netted him $18.7 million over the last year. Then last Labor Day on the eve of the season they secured two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins in a $55 million extension that gave him $36 million over the next three years.
It's believed the Burfict deal has put the Bengals over the $133 million salary cap for 2014 and has begun to nibble at their $8 million carryover for 2015. But that won't stop them from trying to extend three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green before the start of next season, they've said. They've already exercised their fifth-year option and are committed to pay Green $10.5 million in 2015.
The latest deal got announced two years early since Burfict was heading into final season of his rookie three-year contract paying him the minimum and the Bengals were prepared to drop the biggest restricted free agent tender to bring him back in 2015.
But in becoming the emotional leader of the NFL's No. 3 defense while becoming the league's leading tackler, Burfict had clearly outplayed that original contract calling for him to make a little more than half a million this year. The Bengals apparently came up with a two-year extension average believed to be about $8 million, which, according to spotrac.com, is a number that puts Burfict in the top seven of the NFL's highest paid inside linebackers . But he got it a lot quicker than the Rams' James Laurinaitis ($8.3 million average) and Arizona's Daryl Washington ($8 million). He's heading into just his third season and won't turn 24 for 35 more days. Plus, he'll get a shot for a third contract before turning 27, ideal for a linebacker.
ESPN called it a four-year deal at $20 million and said he gets $7.6 million this year.