Well that was easy, and Joe Burrow didn’t even have to pull the old fake injury/shadow holdout move. According to reports, the Cincinnati Bengals’ quarterback agreed to a five-year, $275 million contract extension with the team. The deal comes with $219 million guaranteed, making Burrow the highest paid player in NFL history.
Anytime you write that last sentence, presumably it becomes the focus of the piece, but fans are wise to how this works, and how much a true franchise quarterback means to an organization. That’s honestly probably why this deal got done with such ease and haste, especially for a team owned by Mike Brown.
The checkbook assuredly won’t open like that for Cincy receivers Tee Higgins, and Ja’Marr Chase. On Thursday, the latter said he hopes former LSU teammate and current Minnesota Viking Justin Jefferson “sets the market for me.”
While recent history, and the current member of the Brown family calling the shots, tells me one of the two pass catchers will remain a Bengal, Higgins could be the odd man out. He wants a deal before the start of the season and Burrow said he wants Higgins prioritized, but the Bengals apparently are waiting to see what happens with Jefferson, and Dallas’ CeeDee Lamb before committing to anything.
UPDATE: Reports are the Bengals and Higgins are (predictably) not close to an extension, and the receiver is not in the team’s long-term plans.
So, congrats to Joe Burrow, whose loyalty is in no way being rewarded, and trust is already waning. God speed, Who Dey faithful.
The approach to team building has evolved, and front offices are aware that keeping all your stars isn’t possible. However, there is a “Go for broke” option; the Rams used it, the Dolphins are trying it, and it doesn’t even have to be irresponsible. It might not be as hard to tear down and reload an NFL roster as skeptics make it out to be — especially with Burrow.
New England retooled for years around Tom Brady. Sure, there were peaks and valleys, and some iterations were better than others, but the Patriots knew that, and adjusted accordingly. It helps that Bill Belichick was like a dog who could sniff out regression before a player was diagnosed, yet the Pats stayed viable by being shrewd and opportunistic.
Just last offseason, Kansas City traded Tyreke Hill to Miami, and the KC responded by winning the Super Bowl. If I’m the Bengals, I’m re-signing Higgins, re-upping Chase next year, and then cutting bait with Higgins when the bill comes due in two or three years.
The 24-year-old Clemson product should be productive for another five to six seasons, and while Higgins’ trade value might not be on the level of Hill, roster turnover is something GMs should do with regularity. It sets the bar for not only fans, but also employees. (Selling high also isn’t the worst idea.)
This Bengals team is a legit Super Bowl contender right now. Considering the skill players, the familiarity with each other and the competition, no one in the AFC has a group as ripe as Cincinnati. Maybe Buffalo, but they’re in the banana stage where it could be delicious when unpeeled, but it also could be bruised to all hell.
The added bonus of keeping Burrow, Chase, and Higgins together (for now) is it’s counter to the way the Bengals have been run for so long. The only people fretting over whether Burrow was going to re-sign were Who Dey fans, and I can’t blame them, because they’ve been conditioned to think they can’t have nice things.
Burrow didn’t change that perception when he came along, and the record contract he inked won’t either. The only thing that will sway the minds and hearts of Cincy supporters is if owner Mike Brown actually splurges to keep a good thing going. It doesn’t have to be every time, it just has to be this time.