Cincinnati Bengals players, including star quarterback Joe Burrow, reported to training camp this week. Burrow has risen to stardom over his first three seasons in the NFL, receiving Pro Bowl honors for his production in 2022.
Burrow is set to play on the fourth year of his rookie contract for the upcoming season, and earlier this offseason the team picked up the signal caller's fifth-year option for the 2024 season. The team said the decision to exercise the option was simply a “mechanical step” and the organization vowed to “continue to work with Joe and his representatives to secure his long-term future as a Bengal.”
This week, Bengals owner Mike Brown argued that sharing details about the ongoing negotiations does a disservice to the process.
“I have bound myself not to talk about Joe’s contract,” Brown told reporters a day before camp opens. “They don’t think it’s helpful for the negotiations. The other side has made the same commitment, and they have not broken it.”
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Justin Herbert, who was drafted the same year as Burrow, reportedly agreed to a five-year, $262.5 million extension on Tuesday. The deal also includes guarantees.
Any new deal for Burrow, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft out of LSU, is expected to make him one of the highest paid players in the NFL. Burrow will likely ink a deal that pays him $50 million or more per season.
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But, Brown said he's not alarmed that talks have run into the start of training camp.
“I’m not shocked that this thing is where it is,” the 87-year-old owner said. “It’s only natural that they want to get what they can get, the best that they can get.”
The 26-year-old Burrow led the Bengals to a Super Bowl after the 2021 season – ending in a 23-20 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Last season, Cincinnati finished 12-4, winning the AFC North for the second straight year, with Burrow setting franchise single-season records for completions, pass attempts and passing touchdowns.
During summer workouts, Burrow demurred when reporters inquired about his contract situation. He did say his goals are to win a Super Bowl in Cincinnati and replace the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes as the “best in the world.”
Brown said a year ago that the team had begun restructuring finances in order to secure a long-term deal with Burrow. The Bengals cleared more salary cap space when running back Joe Mixon accepted a restructured deal and pay cut this month to stay with the Bengals.
Other things are on hold until Burrow's deal is done, including a contract for receiver Tee Higgins, who also is eligible for an extension. Since Higgins was not selected in the first round, Cincinnati is not able to offer him the fifth-year option.
Meanwhile, star receiver Ja'Marr Chase will be eligible for an extension after this season. Higgins and Chase likely command salaries that would put them among the highest-paid receivers in the league.
However, Burrow admitted that he is considering his other teammates during his contract discussions — namely Chase and Higgins.
“Whenever you have guys on the team that need to be paid, that’s always on your mind. You want that to be a focal point. So, we’re working to make that happen.” Burrow said in May when he spoke about the ongoing contract negotiations.
Brown said the team has budgeted for Burrow's new deal.
“I don’t know how these pieces are going to fit just yet,” Brown said this week. “We have a pretty good idea of how much we have to spend and how it's accounted for in the cap. And we don’t know where these other deals will end up. But we know we will be pressed to fit them all in.”
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Coach Zac Taylor doesn't expect any distractions as the Bengals prepare for the first preseason game on Aug. 11.
“That's been the beauty so far, (that) the time that I've been here the players have done a great job going about their business and being part of the team, handling that (contract) stuff separately,” Taylor said. “And we just put our head down and got back to work.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.