Raiders Rumors: Vontaze Burfict Visiting Oakland After Bengals Release

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2019

Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict (55) reacts in the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Frank Victores)
Frank Victores/Associated Press

Free-agent linebacker Vontaze Burfict is expected to meet with the Oakland Raiders one day after being released by the Cincinnati Bengals, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.

Oakland defensive coordinator Paul Guenther spent more than a decade on former coach Marvin Lewis' staff in Cincinnati, serving as the defensive coordinator from 2014 to 2017, before joining Jon Gruden in the Bay Area last year.

An undrafted free agent in 2012, Burfict spent the first seven years of his career in Cincinnati. However, with Zac Taylor replacing Lewis at the helm earlier this year, the new regime decided to go in a different direction.

Pelissero noted the Bengals saved $5.69 million in cap space by cutting the 28-year-old linebacker.

Burfict is coming off a season in which he recorded 33 combined tackles and three pass breakups in 2018. He was, however, limited to just seven games, as he missed time both due to suspension (four games for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy) and injuries (hip and concussion).

Meanwhile, Cincinnati ranked last in total defense while Burfict endured a tough season.

The former Pro Bowler has found himself being disciplined by the league on a number of occasions throughout his career, as NFL Network's Marc Sessler pointed out last year:

Burfict was fined $112,000 by the NFL for a pair of hits during an October clash with the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.

Ultimately, Taylor and Co. decided that the linebacker was not worth the money.

While a prior relationship with Guenther would appear to make Oakland a logical landing spot for Burfict, there could be one major roadblock to a deal. Burfict has an ugly history with new Raiders receiver Antonio Brown that dates back to their time in an intense AFC North rivalry.

Back in the 2016 AFC Wild Card Game, Burfict was infamously flagged for leading with his shoulder while hitting Brown in the head. That, combined with an Adam "Pacman" Jones penalty, would move the Steelers into position for a game-winning field goal as time expired.

Brown was concussed on the play and subsequently missed Pittsburgh's divisional matchup with the Denver Broncos, a 23-16 loss. Burfict later accused Brown of faking the injury.

When Burfict was concussed by an illegal block by Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster in December 2017, Brown called it "karma" while saying he "liked" the hit. Smith-Schuster was suspended one game for the illegal block.

A hit on Brown contributed to Burfict's six-figure fine last year.

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