DT Domata Peko leaves Bengals for two-year, $7.5 million deal with Broncos, reports say

Is team in rebuild a la Reds?
Now Domata Peko: Are Bengals in Reds' rebuild?
Now Domata Peko: Are Bengals in Reds' rebuild?
Now Domata Peko: Are Bengals in Reds' rebuild?
Posted at 5:57 PM, Mar 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-11 22:24:19-05

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.

The popular veteran is the third starter to leave the Bengals since free agency began Thursday, following Whitworth (Rams) and G Kevin Zeitler (Browns).

So, who's next? Maybe RB Rex Burkhead?

Under the circumstances, it seems fair to ask if Mike Brown is even trying to keep them. Or if the players who can are jumping ship - not just for the money - but because they see a bleak future here.

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.

Or both.

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.

 Besides Burkhead, here are Bengals' unrestricted free agents who haven't already taken the money and run: 

  • CB Chykie Brown
  • LB Karlos Dansby
  • DE Wallace Gilberry
  • DE Margus Hunt
  • HB Cedric Peerman

C/G T.J. Johnson is a restricted FA, so he can negotiate with other teams, but the Bengals can keep him by matching any offer.

So far the Bengals have re-signed three unrestricted FAs, CB Dre Kirkpatrick (for $52.5 million), WR Brandon LaFell and T Eric Winston.

BTW, Kirkpatrick says former Bengals T Andre Smith might want to come back, but Smith was reported to be visiting the Bills Saturday.

What do you bid, Cincinnati?

Last guy out, turn off the lights.