CINCINNATI — The Bengals are already structuring finances so they can pay Joe Burrow enough money to stay in Cincinnati when the star quarterback becomes eligible to negotiate a new contract after this season, team owner Mike Brown said Monday.
Burrow likely will command a long-term deal paying him somewhere in the $40 million to $50 million range per season, based on the deals of other top NFL quarterbacks.
The latest to cash in was Kyler Murray, who last week signed a five-year, $230 million deal with the Cardinals, working out to about $46.1 million per season.
Cincinnati receiver Tee Higgins, drafted in the same 2020 class as Burrow, also will be eligible to negotiate after this season, reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Ja'Marr Chase the year after that. Both also will require big contracts.
“Right now our obvious, most important issue will be our quarterback,” the 86-year-old Brown said a day before the Bengals open training camp in Cincinnati. “It's not quite ready or ripe yet, but it's right down the track and we see the train coming."
The odd man out here may be safety Jessie Bates III, who has been frustrated by failed efforts to reach a long-term deal with the Bengals. A popular team leader, Bates stayed away from organized team events in the spring and will play this season with a franchise tag, meaning he can negotiate with any team after the season. No one knows when he might show up for training camp.
“We were two years trying to extend him, and we weren't able to get there,” Brown said. "I regret that we didn't. But we will have another chance at the end of the season. Maybe it will happen then.
“Keep in mind we have a lot going on,” Brown continued. “We're trying to get ready for our cap and as we go down the line and we're going to need room for our quarterback and our receivers.”
Burrow's value to the team on the field and as the face of the franchise can't be overstated. He led the Bengals to their first Super Bowl appearance in 33 years, losing to the Los Angeles Rams 23-20. The excitement has carried over. Season tickets are already sold out for the 2022 season.
“We couldn't be happier with Joe Burrow,” Brown said. “He's everything you would wish for, especially for a quarterback in Cincinnati. And our whole focus is going on keeping him here.”
Duke Tobin, the Bengals director of player personnel, said he's got an eye on those looming contract issues, but would rather concentrate on the more immediate goal of getting back to the Super Bowl.
“We don’t really bury our head in the sand and ignore what’s going on elsewhere,” Tobin said when asked about Murray's new contract with the Cardinals. "We are aware of what’s going on elsewhere. We are aware of other deals that are out there. At this point, we are just focused on 2022 and putting the best team out there.
“We are aware that we have decisions and contracts that will be coming up as our team matures,” Tobin said. “That is the design of any player we pull off the draft board. The design is they are going to earn a big, big contract. That’s what we want out of our guys. We want them to be considered top, top-level guys.”
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
The Bengals home field is still called Paul Brown Stadium, but that's likely to change soon.
Brown said it's inevitable that the naming rights to the 22-year-old venue that carries the name of his father and team founder will be sold. He wasn't able to provide any details Monday but said an announcement is coming.
“We are a small-market team,” he said, noting that most NFL teams have sold naming rights. “We need the revenue streams that we can obtain. We have to do some things just to keep up.”
Brown declined to comment on whether his father's name could be incorporated into the stadium's new branding.
The Bengals report to camp on Tuesday with workouts beginning the next day.
Some key players will be sidelined for the opening of camp.
Alex Cappa and La’el Collins, expected starters on Cincinnati's retooled offensive line, will be out for now. Cappa (core muscle injury) was put on the active/physically unable to perform, and Collins (back) on the active/non-football injury list. Offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said both are expected to be ready to go when Cincinnati opens the season Sept. 11 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Also out for the start of camp are LB Joe Bachie, DE Khalid Kareem, RB Samaje Perine and S Brandon Wilson.
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