Joe Burrow reported to training camp without a long-term contract extension, and Cincinnati Bengals executives on Monday refused to discuss the state of the negotiations with the franchise quarterback.
Signing the 2022 Pro Bowler and 2021 AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year to an extension was a goal of the team this summer. Both sides have done an incredible job of keeping details of the talks locked down tight.
“I have bound myself not to talk about Joe’s contract,” Bengals owner Mike 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.”
The new deal for the top overall pick in the 2020 draft is expected to make him one of the highest paid players in the NFL.
Cincinnati picked up the fifth-year option on Burrow’s rookie contract in April ahead of an expected megadeal, which, based on what other top quarterbacks are making, could put him in the range of $50 million a season.
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, who reported to camp Sunday, led the Bengals to a Super Bowl after the 2021 season, 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 supplant the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes as the “best in the world.”
Mahomes won his second league MVP last season before winning his second Super Bowl in four years. He also won his second Super Bowl MVP. Mahomes’ Chiefs defeated Burrow’s Bengals in the AFC title game.
Brown said a year ago that the team had begun restructuring finances in order to ink Burrow to a long-term deal. 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. Star receiver Ja’Marr Chase will be eligible for an extension after this season. Both likely will command salaries that put them among the highest-paid receivers in the league.
“I don’t know how these pieces are going to fit just yet,” Brown said. “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.”
Burrow can look forward to perhaps the best offensive line during his time with the Bengals. The team signed four-time Pro Bowler Orlando Brown Jr. to play left tackle on a line that was consistent last year until three starters were injured late in the season.
Jonah Williams, a first-round pick in 2019 who has lined up at left tackle for the Bengals in all of his 47 career starts, will compete to be the starting right tackle.
“This is a good as I’ve felt going into a season,” offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said.
There will be some questions about the Cincinnati secondary with the departures of safeties Jesse Bates III and Vonn Bell and veteran cornerbacks Eli Apple and Tre Flowers.
On Sunday, the Bengals placed cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and offensive tackles La’el Collins and Devin Cochran on the active/physically unable to perform list. There is no timetable for their return. Collins started at right tackle last season until his knee injury on Dec. 24.
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.”