NFL free agency news: Bengals release Vontaze Burfict

The Bengals are moving on from Vontaze Burfict.

Cincinnati announced Monday it has terminated the veteran linebacker’s contract, making him a free agent after seven seasons with the organization.

Burfict had signed a three-year contraction extension worth $38.68 million before the 2017 season and is slated to cost the Bengals $1.8 million in dead salary cap money, though cutting him will save the team $5.5 million overall.

“As we continue to build our roster for the 2019 season, we felt it best to give both the team and Vontaze a fresh start,” new Bengals coach Zac Taylor said in a release. “Vontaze has been a good player here — the team appreciates that, and I know a lot of fans appreciate that — but our focus is on the future. Our goal is to build a successful team for the upcoming season, and we felt that making this change now was best for everyone.”

Burfict, 28, went undrafted out of Arizona State in the 2012 draft following a failed drug test and lukewarm pre-draft testing but still managed to impress the Bengals enough to sign him. One of the most polarizing players in franchise history, he was best known for his hard and sometimes controversial hits that amounted to millions of dollars lost to fines and suspensions as he terrorized the AFC North.

However, his production has declined in recent years due to injury, and he hasn’t appeared in more than 11 games in a season since 2016.

Burfict was limited to just seven games in 2018 after beginning the year suspended for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy and then in a three-week span in December suffering the sixth and seventh known concussions of his NFL career, leaving his playing career in question.