Joe Burrow’s Obsession With Winning Could Help the Bengals Keep Their Core Together
When news surfaced last week about Joe Burrow’s contract extension discussion with the Bengals, a quote from Burrow caught my mind: “I’m pretty clear on what I want in the contract and what I think is best for myself and the team. So we’re on the road to making that happen.”
From that, I gathered two points:
- Extension talks are underway between Burrow and the Bengals. I would circle late June or early July on your calendars for a timeframe as to when Burrow’s extension could be consummated.
- Burrow wants to do what he believes is “best for [himself] and the team.”
Does that mean that Joe Burrow plans to take a discounted Bengals offer? Probably not, depending on what your definition of discount is. However, Burrow has made it clear that the Bengals getting deals done with as many core members as possible is best for himself and the team.
“Whenever you have guys on the team that need to be paid, that’s always on your mind,” Burrow said. “You want that to be a focal point. We’re working to make that happen.”
Why wouldn’t he? Burrow is obsessed with winning. He still thinks about losing his high school state title game in 2014. He added a loss in Super Bowl LVI to that list. For Burrow, that’s the motivation he needs to make his deal work for the Bengals and the rest of the core.
He won a national championship in his final season at LSU, and he’s done plenty of winning since arriving in Cincinnati. After losing most of his rookie season to a torn ACL, Burrow has elevated the Bengals to a Super Bowl contender. Burrow was the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year in 2021. He led the Bengals to their first playoff win since 1991 and their first Super Bowl appearance in 33 years. As an encore performance, Burrow led the Bengals back to the AFC title game in January. Cincinnati narrowly lost to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
Burrow Could Break the Bank, But Will He?
There’s no denying that Joe Burrow has transformed the Cincinnati Bengals. That’ll be evident in his impending extension. Burrow could break the bank. He’s got a case to top the contracts that Hurts and Jackson received this offseason. The question has now become, will he?
For as much success as Burrow has had in his first three seasons in Cincinnati, he knows how much guys like Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins have meant to that success. In the loss to the Chiefs in the AFC Championship, Higgins and Chase accounted for 14 of Burrow’s 26 total completions and combined for 158 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Burrow was asked last week if that game was a good reminder of why getting his receivers paid is important as well. “You got to have good players,” Burrow said. “It doesn’t matter how good your quarterback is. If you don’t have good players around him, you’re not going to be a very good team.”
It’s one thing for fans and pundits to lob that thinking around. But it’s different to hear it right from the mouth of the quarterback. However, that’s who Joe Burrow is. Just ask those that know him best.
Ja’Marr Chase, who won the 2021 AP Rookie of the Year award and has two Pro Bowl selections playing with Burrow, knows him well. The two played together at LSU and reunited in Cincinnati. Chase said last week that Burrow is a “winning guy” who isn’t all about the money.
“He knows what he has to do to win, and he wants to win,” said Chase. “He’s a winning guy. He’s not a quarterback that’s always interested in money and all that other stuff. He just wants to win, and that’s the big thing about Joe.”
Tee Higgins said last week that the trio has talked about staying together for the long run in Cincinnati.
“We talk about staying together for the long run,” Higgins said. “Hopefully, we can do that and get something negotiated to where they can keep all three of us.”
So, what might Burrow’s extension look like?
The biggest hurdle that will have to be cleared here will be Burrow trying to maximize his deal while still leaving the Bengals the room to get deals done with Chase and Higgins in the next year. It’s a complicated balance, but it can be struck. Especially if Burrow is determined to back up the words of himself and his teammates.
Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson took five-year deals this offseason. Josh Allen got six a couple of years ago, and Patrick Mahomes signed a 10-year deal in 2020. The difference between Mahomes’ deal and the rest is the flexibility it gave the Chiefs regarding the salary cap.
For example, Burrow could sign a four-year deal worth $220 million and be the highest-paid QB in the NFL (by yearly average) at $55 million annually. Or, he could take a deal like Mahomes and make more guaranteed in the end while leaving the Bengals with room to work. Mahomes signed a 10-year, $450 million contract in 2020. The key to Mahomes’ deal was the rolling guarantees.
At the signing, $63,081,900 became fully guaranteed to Mahomes. Additionally, $141 million became guaranteed for injury, and in total, $477,631,000 can become guaranteed throughout the deal’s life. So, while Mahomes didn’t get the large upfront guarantee that Jackson and Mahomes did, he can end up with almost a half-billion in guaranteed money at the end of the deal.
The problem with Mahomes’ deal is that he was never going to see the end of the deal. He’s likely going to get a new deal before the season starts.
That Mahomes deal was reflective of the constraints of the pandemic and probably unique to the pandemic. Still, we could see something equally unique done here with Burrow and the Bengals if that’s how Burrow wants this to go.