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Vontaze Burfict, Bengals reach long-term extension

The Cincinnati Bengals continue to lock up their best players ahead of the 2014 season.

This time, they took care of the defense, securing the services of Vontaze Burfict. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reports it's a four-year, $20.05 million contract for the Pro Bowl outside linebacker, per a source involved in the process.

Burfict will make $6.9 million combined in a signing bonus and roster bonus this season, plus another roster bonus worth $2.15 million due next March, bringing his total income to $9.75 million by spring (there's $700,000 left over from his rookie deal).

It's a real bargain for a player who is a budding star. Burfict plays in a 4-3 defense, but lesser players like the Jags' Paul Posluszny and the Rams' James Laurinaitis (who play middle linebacker) earn far more money annually.

Burfict broke out in 2013, anchoring the NFL's third-ranked defense. It was even more impressive because he lost the protection of All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins midway through the season, but Burfict still managed to lead the league in tackles. He's as sure a tackler as they come, and one of the best run pluggers in the league.

He's also excellent in space, wrapping up 49 tackles (with just three misses) in pass coverage through 13 weeks last season, per Pro Football Focus.

Burfict went undrafted in 2012 out of Arizona State after a disastrous performance at the NFL Scouting Combine but surprised in camp and won a starting job. With Atkins there to keep blockers off him, Burfict should enjoy an even better year heading into his third campaign.

Burfict was recognized as one of the top players in the NFL, checking in at No. 52 on NFL Network's "Top 100" list. Now, his salary more closely resembles his value to the Bengals.

With Andy Dalton signed long term and now Burfict, the Bengals can turn their attention to wide receiver A.J. Green.

The latest "Around the League Podcast" recaps all of the action from the second week of the preseason.

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