Bengals sign LB Vontaze Burfict to contract extension through 2017

CINCINNATI - Pro Bowler Vontaze Burfict has signed a three-year contract extension with the Bengals that will keep him in stripes through the 2017 season.

The productive inside linebacker put pen to paper Wednesday on a deal that makes him one of the highest paid players at his position.

An initial report from NFL.com  indicates the deal is worth just more than $20 million overall, with about $16 million in new money coming Burfict's way over the next two years.

Not bad for a guy who got a $1,000 signing bonus in 2012 when he originally agreed to terms with the Bengals as an undrafted free agent.

“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.”

An Arizona State product, Burfict has been the linchpin of the Bengals defense over the past two seasons. He’s helped the team evolve into the third-best in the league in 2013. They were in the top 10 in points and yards during his rookie year as well.

“Vontaze is a special talent; he has shown us that from his first day here,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said in a release.

In 2013 Lewis took a chance on Burfict, who left college early after an inconsistent junior year with the Sun Devils. Heading into the draft there were concerns about his character and after a horrible performance at the NFL Scouting Combine  his draft stock plummeted.

That risk has paid off. Literally.

After a breakout rookie season, the 6-foot-1, 255-pound linebacker followed it up with an All-Pro sophomore campaign that saw him lead the NFL in tackles (171). He also paced the Bengals in tackles-for-loss (eight) and finished with three sacks, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.

“He is a load physically and he’s extremely competitive, but what really makes him stand out is the instinct and feel he has for the game,” Lewis continued. “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.”

The new deal with Burfict follows a big-money, eyebrow-raising contract extension for Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton . With two of their marquee players under contract, the Bengals will turn their attention to inking receiver A.J. Green to a long-term deal.

Burfict, Dalton, Green and the rest of the Bengals have one final regular-season tune-up on Aug. 28 against the Colts before the start of the 2014 campaign. They open the season on the road against the Baltimore Ravens.

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