Former Las Vegas Raiders LB Vontaze Burfict is reportedly working on reforming his image and his game in an effort to get back on the field.
When the Raiders signed former Cincinnati Bengal Vontaze Burfict to a one-year deal in 2019 the move was met with raised eyebrows and confusion by fans and pundits alike. On the surface the Raiders were signing a player that was suspended repeatedly by the NFL for his illegal hits and his violations of the league’s policy on PEDs.
The justification was that Burfict was well-studied in Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther’s system and could tutor the young players on the defense. If he could avoid crossing the line then it would have been a mutually beneficial move for all parties but unfortunately Burfict could only hold his water for so long.
In Week 4 Burfict was ejected for a hit on Indianapolis Colts TE Jack Doyle and was suspended for the season as a result. If it was Tahir Whitehead or Maxx Crosby that made the hit then the ejection may have been the end of the discipline but Burfict’s reputation preceded him and his multiple offenses lead to the year-long suspension.
The Raiders should not have been relying on such a volatile player to captain their defense in the first place but losing him left a gaping hole in the middle of the defense that they patched with Whitehead and free agent Will Compton with mixed results.
Now there is talk about the Raiders rolling the dice on Burfict for the same reasons they did in 2019, he is a cheap veteran linebacker that already knows the defensive system and can provide depth at the position. Theoretically he could also tutor the young linebackers that the Raiders are supposedly planning to draft but is he the example that the Raiders should want their young players to follow? To borrow the phrase from JJ Watt, that’s a hard no for me.
Burfict’s agent Peter Schaffer has been trying to convince teams to give his client another chance and he recently told NFL Network, as quoted by ESPN, that:
"“Vontaze has spent the entire offseason studying and learning the proper code of conduct for participation in the NFL. He has watched tape, talked with coaches and NFL experts, doing everything he can to conform his passionate play to the rules of the NFL. This is a serious issue not only for Vontaze but all players, and he is serious about doing things the right way and being a leader in playing football the right way,”"
The reports from the Raiders locker room was that Burfict was a popular figure among the players and had stepped in to a leadership role that he did not seem to be interested in while in Cincinnati. While all of that is fine and good, the Raiders need to avoid the temptation of bringing him back even at the veteran minimum.
We all know what kind of player he is and even if he is an above average linebacker, the Raiders would be better suited rolling the dice on a young player with upside or a more expensive veteran that doesn’t have disciplinary issues.
If the Raiders are serious about turning a new leaf in Las Vegas and building a defense that will make them a contender, ignoring Burfict and his agent’s PR campaign is a great first step.