Bengals bringing back Browning to back up Burrow

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

INDIANAPOLIS — Cincinnati Bengals executive Duke Tobin said Tuesday the organization planned to keep Jake Browning on board as the backup quarterback. By Wednesday morning, the Bengals had made that official.

The Bengals announced they have tendered exclusive rights for Browning and long snapper Cal Adomitis to ensure they stay with the team for 2024. As exclusive-rights players, Adomitis and Browning each have the option of signing the Bengals’ tender offer or negotiating a longer-term contract with the team.

During his press conference at the NFL Combine on Tuesday in Indianapolis, Tobin praised Browning for his contributions this past season while stepping in for injured Joe Burrow, and it’s no surprise the Bengals would want him back.

“He did come in and really blossom and give us the opportunity to win and that’s what you want, especially when you’re working with your backup quarterback,” said Tobin, the Bengals’ director of player personnel. “You want somebody that can come in and give you the opportunity to win, and he did more than that and we were really impressed with the way that he attacked his role and his leadership when it came down to him being the guy. You could tell he is been in that role before, and he was comfortable in that role, and we were really impressed with a lot of the things that he did. In terms of keeping him, we plan for him to be with us.”

Adomitis’ return also should not come as a surprise as he has been effective in the long snapper role the past two seasons. He’s had no unplayable snaps in 288 attempts over the past two years since he was promoted from the practice squad during his rookie season in 2022.

Browning likely would have been snatched up in free agency had he reached that point. He stepped into the Bengals’ starting quarterback role for the final seven games of the 2023 season, after spending the first 10 contests as a backup and the previous two seasons on the team’s practice squad. Browning completed 71.5 percent of his passes for 1,868 yards and 11 touchdowns as a starter, becoming just the third NFL quarterback since 1950 to record at least 1,500 passing yards and 10 touchdowns with a completion percentage of 70 or higher in his first seven career starts.

The University of Washington product proved to be a serviceable backup, but the Bengals remain confident in Burrow’s ability to bounce back from November wrist surgery. Burrow has been rehabbing at Paycor Stadium through much of the offseason and seems to be progressing well, Tobin said.

“It’s really critical and as far as I know, it’s going really well,” he said. “He’s been around the building a lot, rehabbing. He’s Joe, so you know that a hundred percent effort is going to go into it. He’s focused on it. All the reports that we’ve gotten have been very positive, so we expect a full recovery and we expect him to continue being Joe.”

Burrow said in early January he should be good to throw by Organized Team Activities, but Bengals coach Zac Taylor remains hesitant to put a timeline on that or predict when Burrow might be able participate in practices this offseason and summer.

“You know him, like all of the rehab guys that are in our facility, there in our weight room, there with our doctors and our trainers, and so one thing you learn is when you’re around injured players, you won’t ask him every day, ‘How you feel? How you feel?’” Taylor said. “That gets pretty old pretty fast. And so you give them their space. I know everything’s progressing as expected. And so, as well as anybody over my six years here, I’ve made a lot of errors making proclamations about injury timelines. And so all I can say is that it’s progressing as expected. He’s doing really well. So, we’re excited about this offseason with Joe and once we get closer, we’ll have a better idea.”

In the meantime, the Bengals can use Burrow as a resource in discussions about personnel additions this offseason, whether that is getting his input on free agents he knows or draft prospects.

Tobin said Burrow’s focus is primarily on getting healthy, but if there are players Burrow has specific knowledge of, he will ask him. The Bengals find that information, from Burrow and others, useful in assessing how players might fit with the team.

“That guy has as much reason to tell me, ‘Oh, no we don’t want him,’ as he does, ‘Heck yeah, let’s go get him,’ because it is his team as well,” Tobin said. “People that are invested in the Cincinnati Bengals that are on our football team I believe will tell me at least what their thoughts were on the guy as a teammate, as somebody in the locker room, as somebody on the practice field, as somebody in the offseason program. You can get a lot of good information that way if you ask the right questions and talk to the right people.”

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