Yes, it’s useless offseason chatter. But the idea that the Bengals are looking at the Deshaun Watson contract and wondering what they’ll do when it’s time to extend Joe Burrow is absurd.
First, let’s acknowledge two things: 1. The Bengals don’t like to give out guaranteed money; 2. They don’t restructure deals for cap relief.
These points suggest that they won’t give out a fully-guaranteed deal, like Watson’s $230 contract, and that they will have to continue to win despite a $50 million or $60 million cap hit for Burrow each year.
So? That doesn’t mean they won’t pay a man on pace to be the greatest quarterback in franchise history.
This is a front office that made Carson Palmer (shudders) the highest paid player in the league back in 2005 and gave Andy Dalton a $96 million deal even when it was clear he wasn’t a top 10 quarterback in the NFL.
As John Sheeran constantly tells us on the #1 Bengals Podcast, the Bengals value certain positions more than others. And they value no position more than quarterback.
We recently discussed a future Burrow extension and how Katie Blackburn and company will be able to keep up with the soaring amount of guaranteed money being put into contracts. You can watch the video below:
As Sheeran explained, the Bengals use roster bonuses and their track record for honoring deals as a substitute for fully-guaranteed money in negotiations:
“You have to look at it in terms of fully-guaranteed and practical or effective guarantees. And the Bengals live in a world where they rely on effective guarantees. And you see those in the form of roster bonuses, which get distributed about a couple days after the new league year begins. So every free agency, some of their biggest free agents signings of the past get paid a couple million in roster bonuses. Like Trey Hendrickson this year got a $6 million roster bonus that he was 100 percent going to make regardless of what he did. He was a phenomenal edge rusher for them last year, but he wasn’t going to get cut after he signed a four year deal... None of the rest of his base salary or contract is guaranteed, but he has another [$3.2 million] roster bonus due next year. He’s going to get that money because this is the Bengals and they don’t typically cut their biggest contracts before the very last year or maybe two years before the end of the deal. So the Bengals use those roster bonuses in negotiations to make up for the fact that they don’t guarantee base salaries for whatever reason.”
He went on to explain that the deal signed by Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes—10 years, $450 million with only $141.5 million guaranteed—is a much better comparison for a future Burrow deal:
“Every single year, [Mahomes] is getting these massive roster bonuses [$27 million this year and a peak of $49 million in 2027]. His signing bonus is not that big [$10 million], so it doesn’t do much against the cap. But every single year that Mahomes is a Kansas City Chief, he’s getting roster bonuses in the $40 million range, and that just has to be paid on a particular date that year. And the Bengals can do that, because they’ll presumably have $50 million in cash on hand to make those payments. It’s just a matter of if Burrow wants to take a deal structured like that now that Deshaun Watson has set a new precedent.”
On that end, I would argue that Burrow will be more flexible than Watson for a few reasons:
- He is not in Watson’s scenario. And the Bengals are not in the Cleveland Browns’ scenario. The former Houston Texan is not sure when he will be allowed to play, if at all. Thus, he appears to have made the amount of guaranteed money a way for competing teams to “win” the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes. Meanwhile, the Browns had already leaked that they were interested in Watson, which hurt the feelings of one Baker Mayfield and threatened to derail what the team had been building in recent years. So they had less leverage than they would have liked when negotiating with the best agent in the business, Dave Mulugheta.
- Burrow is from nearby Athens, loves Ohio, loves the players and coaches around him, and loves winning. And he just went to a Super Bowl. If the ultra-competitive Tom Brady took less overall money to help roster building after tasting success, it seems unlikely that Burrow will refuse to take less guaranteed money to do the same.
- The Bengals honor contracts until they become absurdly unreasonable (see: Trae Waynes). Burrow’s play is unlikely to decline to the point that he won’t be worth his salary. And if injuries limit his availability, it will be on account of the shots to his knees he took his first two years in the NFL, when Cincinnati’s front office trotted him out on the field with one of the worst offensive lines in football. They know that, and they know it would be dishonorable to abandon him like that. Say what you want about Mike Brown and company, but they do have a sense of business ethics and are loyal to those who have shown dedication to the franchise and city.
What is your level of concern about Burrow’s next deal?
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