The Cincinnati Bengals have long been one of the most change-averse organizations in the NFL. The leadership in place in Cincinnati was the same for a long time, and the executive staff has long prioritized drafting, developing, and re-signing its own players over being major players in free agency. The lack of change extended to the coaching ranks, where the Bengals kept Marvin Lewis for 16 seasons despite the fact that he made the playoffs seven times and went 0-7 in those games.
The Bengals finally did make a change this offseason, though, firing Lewis and hiring former Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor to replace him. And along with that change comes another, as the Bengals have cut controversial linebacker Vontaze Burfict, according to a report from Dianna Russini of ESPN.
Bengals outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict has been cut per source— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) March 18, 2019
Burfict has been an excellent player during his time in the league, but he has become far betterthan for his abilities. As our Ryan Wilson noted last year:
The Bengals linebacker has a long history of questionable play, including a helmet-to-helmet hit on Brown during a 2016 playoff game against the Steelers. That played a part in the league's decision to suspend Burfict for the first three games of the 2016 season. He has also been accused of dirty hits against Ravens tight end Maxx Williams, former Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett, and former Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount. There was also the dirty hit against the Chiefs during the 2017 preseason, and accusations by the Steelers last season that he appeared to kick fullback Roosevelt Nix in the head during a game.
The MMQB's Robert Klemko even put together a two-plus-minute compilation of Burfict's dirty hits over the years.
Burfict was also suspended for four games last season for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy.
By cutting him, the Bengals save approximately $5.5 million against the cap, but given their historical aversion to spending on outside free agents, we should not necessarily expect them to suddenly spring for a marquee free agent to replace the departing linebacker. More likely, they will make some low-level depth signings and find more linebacker talent in the draft.