Dec 22, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko (94) reacts to a defensive stop in the second half against the Denver Broncos at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 37-28. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
DT Domata Peko
It’s a strange way to start this examination of players who’ll be battling for their roster spots considering the consensus that seems to exist surrounding Domata Peko. Hobson summarizes this consensus when writing:
"“As for cutting Peko, it’s not going to happen. The coaches love their nose tackle and while he just turned 30 and may not be what he was, he still does all the invisible things needed to allow other guys to do their jobs. He’s too important on and off the field. You’ll have to have this discussion with defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, who last season called him the best 4-3 nose tackle in the league.”"
Yet I still have to believe that Peko could be battling for his spot in August for several reasons. First, despite the fact that Peko is undeniably a great presence for the Bengals’ psyche, but when it comes to on-the-field performance there are questions. When August rolls around, Peko could very well be outplayed by fellow tackle Pat Sims who’s proven he is the more capable run stopper. If this proves true, Peko will be relegated to a rotational/reserve role behind Sims on running downs.
November 24, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Pat Sims (90) defends during the first quarter against the Tennessee Titans at O.co Coliseum. The Titans defeated the Raiders 23-19. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
It would also put Peko in a position to have to defend his spot against potential incoming youth. The Bengals could very well invest in more defensive tackle talent in this year’s draft. Even if the team chooses to forego a tackle in the early rounds, there are some highly talented tackles who will be available in the later rounds of the draft; Tyeler Davison is a personal favorite who could prove to be extremely effective against the run. Can the Bengals really afford to ignore an entire deep class of defensive tackles while retaining a declining talent such as Peko?
If the Bengals choose to move on, there are benefits to this. Not only would the Bengals allow themselves to invest in promising talent while affording them the time to develop in a reserve role, the team would also open some extra 2015 cap space, which could be utilized to lock up impending free agents before they hit the market in 2016.
The decision to move on from Peko isn’t a likely one. As pointed out by Hobson, the team loves him and his presence in the locker room. But if the available talent in the draft is too good to pass up, and if Sims outperforms Peko in camp, will the Bengals still be able to justify his roster spot based purely on his locker room presence, especially when the team possesses so many other great character players? Only time will tell.
Next: If the Bengals Invest in A Linebacker, Who Falls by the Wayside?