CINCINNATI - Are the Bengals in rebuild mode a la the Reds?
The Bengals lost another bedrock of their recent five-year playoff run Saturday when DT Domata Peko followed T Andrew Whitworth out the door. Peko, 32, reportedly agreed to a two-year, $7.5 million deal with the Broncos, with $3.8 million guaranteed.
If the Bengals think they can contend next season, wouldn't they have put the franchise tag on Zeitler? Or even Whitworth? I can see why not Whitworth or Peko, but lose all three?
Peko didn't get the big money that Zeiter ($60 million) and Whitworth ($31.5 million) got, so even though he's aging, you have to wonder if the Bengals aren't just clearing the decks for a five-year rebuilding stage, like the Reds. Or if Peko just saw a chance to finish his career on a contender and not a team coming off a 6-9-1 season with little hope for jumping back into the playoff race this year.
Peko, who had played his entire 11-year NFL career with Cincinnati, had played every game in 10 of 11 seasons after coming to the Bengals as a fourth-round pick from Michigan State. And he had started every game in nine of the last 10.
Peko wasn't just a solid run stopper, he was a locker room leader like Whitworth and a fan favorite.