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Tuesday Trenches: The Bengals and paying quarterbacks

Let’s take a look at the team’s history when it comes to paying their quarterbacks.

The Cincinnati Bengals have reported to training camp, yet the only news fans have been waiting on for months is the pending extension for superstar quarterback Joe Burrow. Both sides have been mum on where they currently stand as far as negotiations go, but there are a few things that are clear:

  1. Burrow will be the highest-paid player in franchise history.
  2. Whatever the Bengals pay Burrow, it will be worth it.
  3. The team has a history of paying their quarterbacks.

Now, we’re not going to go back in time too far. We’re just going to look at the two most recent quarterback extensions for Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton. Those two are the only ones that are even remotely relevant to Burrow’s pending extension.

Let’s start with Palmer.

In 2005, the Bengals' offense exploded with Palmer under center. Chad Johnson became a household name, and Palmer passed for just under 4,000 yards and 32 touchdowns, and the Bengals finished the regular season with an 11-5 record, hosting their first playoff game since 1990. Of course, Palmer hurt his knee against the Steelers in the playoffs, and the team lost in the Wild Card round by a score of 31-17.

Just before that playoff game, though, the Bengals extended Palmer with a 6-year, $97 million contract. That may seem like small potatoes, but in 2005, that was a big deal. Here’s a look at every quarterback contract from 2005, courtesy of Over the Cap.

The ink on Palmer’s contract extension was barely dry when he took the field against the Steelers in the playoffs. He signed on December 29, 2005. He played vs. the Steelers, injuring his knee, on January 6, 2006. Palmer went on to host another playoff game in 2009 against the Jets, another loss before he demanded a trade.

His contract for six years and $97 million was by far the highest signed in 2005. Matt Hasselbeck, who took the Seahawks to the Super Bowl in 2005, signed a deal worth $48 million for the same amount of years. Tom Brady, whose accolades I don’t need to mention, also signed an extension in 2005 for four years and $48 million.

Also, if you’ll notice, Palmer’s extension was 18.9 percent of the team’s overall cap space. This is also the highest in 2005. Brady’s was 14 percent, and everyone else was lower than 10 percent.

Now, let’s move on to Dalton.

The Bengals extended Dalton to a six-year, $96 million extension on August 4, 2014, after leading the team to their third consecutive playoff berth. While it’s a whole $1 million less than what Palmer signed for, it was a lot less than what Palmer got.

First, Dalton’s contract was 14.3 percent of the team’s cap space, compared to Palmer’s 18.9 percent. It was also a lot less than the contracts given to Jay Cutler and Colin Kaepernick. However, it was still a solid chunk of change for a second-round quarterback who had yet to win a playoff game.

In his defense, Palmer hadn’t won a playoff game, either, but he was the No. 1 overall pick and helped bring the Bengals out of their lost decade of the ‘90s.

So what? This is a different team with a different coach. The Blackburns have seemingly taken a much larger role with the franchise than they had in the early 2000s or even in 2014. The only constant has been Duke Tobin, who has been with the team since 1999, though his power and influence have grown.

What this does tell us is the Bengals haven’t shied away from paying their quarterbacks, and in Palmer’s case, they weren’t afraid to allocate close to 20% of the team’s payroll to one player. Twenty percent of the team’s salary cap this year would be close to $45 million.

Considering Burrow has had more postseason success than Palmer or Dalton (or any other Bengals quarterback in franchise history), he will have more of a claim to make more than 20 percent of the team’s cap than any quarterback before in franchise history.

Lamar Jackson signed a five-year, $260 million contract shortly after Jalen Hurts signed a five-year, $255 million deal. Jackson accounts for 23.1 percent of the Ravens' cap space, and Hurts’ salary is 22.7 percent of the Eagles' cap this year. Burrow will make more money than both Jackson and Hurts, so we’re probably looking at something in the ballpark of five years, $270 million. That would account for around 22.7 percent of the Bengals' 2023 cap.

There really is no way of knowing what Burrow will sign for until the deal is finalized and the figures are made public, so trying to guess how much he’ll get paid is an exercise in futility. What we can predict is the two sides will get a deal done. They struck a deal with Palmer before the 2005 season was actually over, and he didn’t have a fraction of the success that Burrow has had in the same amount of time.

They paid Palmer. They paid Dalton. Burrow has earned it, and they’ll pay him too.

We just have to be patient.

Who Dey!