CINCINNATI — Bengals team president Mike Brown knows a massive contract negotiation and potential paycheck for quarterback Joe Burrow is looming.
During the team’s annual media luncheon Monday, Brown said he doesn’t know how that will all play out once Burrow is eligible for an extension. But Brown is confident in how he feels about the team’s franchise quarterback.
“I can tell you that we couldn’t be happy with Joe Burrow,” Brown said. “He’s everything you would wish for, especially for a quarterback in Cincinnati. Our whole focus is going to be on keeping him here.”
Burrow, the top overall draft pick in 2020, overcame a major left knee injury sustained during his rookie season to lead the Bengals to their first Super Bowl appearance in 33 years.
He completed 70% of his passes for 4,611 yards, 34 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
Burrow is currently entering the third year of his rookie contract that averages $9.9 million annually, according to Roster Management System. Seven quarterbacks currently earn more than $40 million a year. Those players also averaged $141.9 million in guaranteed money.
“It’s crazy the number that these guys are putting up, and I think it’s well deserved,” Burrow said in June when asked about the recent deals given to Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Cleveland’s Deshaun Watson. “All those guys are playing at the top of their game. They’re being paid accordingly. But really, I haven’t thought about it much right now.”
The team will have the ability to extend Burrow’s rookie deal by a year because of his status as a former first-round draft pick. However, Burrow and the rest of the league’s 2020 draft class will be eligible for extensions following this year.
“This is a puzzle,” Brown said. “It just doesn’t all fit perfectly. We’re going to have some pluses. We’re going to get some guys signed that are critical to the team. And we’re going to lose some guys.”
Bengals safety Jessie Bates is one of those at risk of leaving. For the second straight year, Bates and the team failed to agree on a long-term extension. Bates was given the franchise tag in March, but has yet to sign his tender and his availability for training camp remains uncertain, coach Zac Taylor said.
Burrow’s will not be the only key contract that will be up for debate before 2023. Wide receiver Tee Higgins will also be extension eligible. Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, the reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, can start his contract talks in 2024.
Brown and Cincinnati’s front office know they will need to account for Higgins, Chase and others currently on team-friendly deals.
But there’s no debate about the team’s primary long-term business objective.
“Right now, our obvious, most important issue will be with our quarterback,” Brown said. “It’s not quite ready or ripe yet, but it’s right down the track. We see the train coming.”