Could the Bengals Trade Vontaze Burfict Before the Season?

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 6: Vontaze Burfict
CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 6: Vontaze Burfict /

Burfict’s enigmatic tenure with the Bengals could come to an end if the team trades him. What would be the best landing spots and what could Cincinnati get?

No player has caused Bengals fans more anguish than linebacker Vontaze Burfict. A player whose reputations precedes him, Burfict’s endless suspensions have certainly been annoying. Perhaps the team’s frustrations with him peaked when he drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the playoff game against Pittsburgh, which may have cost the Bengals the game. At some point, Burfict’s on-field antics could become intolerable for both the team and fans.

While Burfict’s “dirty play” may stand out, his performance as a Bengals has been incredible, too. The penalty in the playoffs hurt, but he also secured a crucial interception late in that game that seemed to seal the win. Burfict has led the entire NFL in tackles before, which was not an anomaly looking his year-to-year production. Most importantly, the team performs best when Burfict is on the field, directing traffic.

With that in mind, Burfict’s trade value is very hard to gauge. The receiving team would get an elite off-ball linebacker who will immediately step in and improve the defense. However, they would also assuredly burden themselves with Burfict’s on-field antics and off-field issues. As of now, the Bengals have yet to pull the trigger on a trade, but Burfict has been named as a player who could get shipped. Let’s explore what some possible trades could look like.

Vontaze Burfict and a conditional 5th round pick to Oakland for Donald Penn and Tahir Whitehead

The Bengals and Raiders seemed to be trade discussions about Burfict pre-draft, although nothing came to fruition. In theory, Burfict to Oakland makes a lot of sense. He has the mentality and work ethic to play for a hard-nosed coach like Gruden. Also, Burfict’s defensive coordinator, Paul Guenther, is in Oakland now, so he knows best how to utilize Burfict. As for the Bengals, they could certainly use one of the Raiders’ veteran offensive linemen to stabilize the position.

Whether or not this type of deal was ever on the table, I think it makes a lot of sense for both sides. The Raiders receive Burfict, who joins Bruce Irvin and former Bengal Emmanuel Lamur as starting linebackers. That core becomes one of the best in the league and takes a lot of pressure off of Khalil Mack. Crucially, Burfict would drastically improve a run defense that has been lackluster as of late. Furthermore, on pass plays, Burfict would be able to spy and roam the middle of the field, which is his best skill. He is a natural fit in Guenther’s Oakland defense.

The Bengals get Donald Penn and Tahir Whitehead, a fair return for Burfict. Penn has been one of the better tackles in the league recently, although he comes with his share of off-field issues. If those can be resolved, Penn would start opposite Cordy Glenn, making the Bengals’ tackles significantly better. Whitehead would take over Burfict’s role at WLB, allowing Malik Jefferson to develop slowly. Whitehead could be a solid veteran presence on a young linebacker core in Cincinnati. Giving up a conditional 5th round pick – contingent on Penn’s games played – makes sense given that the Bengals are receiving slightly more talent in this trade.

Vontaze Burfict and a 6th round pick to Dallas for Maliek Collins and a 3rd round pick

Dallas is a natural target for a linebacker. While Sean Lee has been one of the best linebackers in the league, he has rarely been healthy. Burfict possesses many of the same skills as Lee so that he could occupy that lead linebacker role should Lee get injured again. If they’re both healthy, even better for Dallas – the two can play together. In Collins, the Bengals get the nose tackle that they lack. Run-stopping defensive tackles are one of the biggest weaknesses on the current roster, and Collins could fill that gap. He fits perfectly next to Geno Atkins. Burfict is the more productive player right now, so the Bengals should receive some draft capital in this trade as well to compensate.

Vontaze Burfict, Brandon LaFell, and a 6th round pick to Washington for Jamison Crowder, Tim Settle, and a 3rd round pick

Within Dallas’ own division, there’s another team that is relatively linebacker-needy. Washington could use a tackling machine like Burfict alongside Ryan Kerrigan to vault their defense into near-elite status. Slowly but surely, the Redskins have been building an excellent defense, and Burfict could be the final domino. In return, the Bengals shed salary at wide receiver and get one of the NFL’s burgeoning slot receivers in Crowder. Crowder would kick inside and allow Tyler Boyd and John Ross to play outside. Also, the team would get a nice rookie nose tackle in Tim Settle. Again, the Bengals receive decent draft capital as compensation for giving up a high-level talent.

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It’s unlikely that the Bengals will trade Burfict at this point, but it wouldn’t be that surprising. It would allow the team to turn over a new leaf at linebacker with young guys like Carl Lawson, Malik Jefferson, and Nick Vigil.