Bengals mum on contract negotiations with Burrow

CINCINNATI —After watching his Cincinnati Bengals coming just shy of the ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl the past two years, Mike Brown can feel how close he was to finally achieving it, and all of that sits in his memory.

The Bengals owner and team president says he doesn’t need to imagine what that moment would be like but said he would “like that two seconds” to hold a Lombardi Trophy before he would happily pass it off to coach Zac Taylor.

At age 87, having seen his team go to three Super Bowls without the end prize, Brown thinks about his legacy more than accolades but said he ties that to what the fans and city of Cincinnati get from the team’s success.

“I want it to be good for the team in Cincinnati,” Brown said Monday during a sitdown with local media as part of an annual luncheon to kick off training camp. “I want it to be good for the city, the county. I want it to work and by work I’m saying I want it to be like it’s been the last two years when it’s lifted up the whole city. It was fun. You could walk around town and you could feel it. People wore Bengals stuff. They talked about the team. They were happier and did I like that? I really liked that, but I’m not the one that does this. Others are doing it. We’ve got an excellent coaching staff. Zac’s a great head coach. We have good players. Our quarterback is an exceptional player. We have a shot and we’ll see where it goes this year, but it would be fun if we could put it together.”

Joe Burrow is a big key to what the Bengals will do this season, and the Bengals have viewed him as the quarterback that will keep them competing for Super Bowl titles. However, he is heading into training camp with a figurative cloud hanging over him, while his contract extension remains in the works.

Brown emphasized the importance of locking Burrow up for the longterm during the organization’s media luncheon last year, but he has since imposed a moratorium on discussing contract negotiations and topics surrounding those. Director of player personnel Duke Tobin seems to have done the same, as he joined Brown in trying to put to bed related questions in their separate interview sessions with media Monday.

“I have bound myself not to talk about Joe’s contract,” Brown said. “I don’t think it’s helpful for the negotiations. The other side has made the same commitment, and they have not broken it.”

Burrow’s contract is expected to make him the highest paid quarterback in the league, but he acknowledged during the offseason it might take some sacrifice on his part to be able to keep some of the other pieces around him that are key to his success.

Tee Higgins also is up for an extension, and Ja’Marr Chase will be due next year. On defense, Logan Wilson is in the last year of his rookie deal, and D.J. Reader also is headed for free agency without an extension this season.

The Bengals picked up the fifth-year option on Burrow’s contract in April, but even with that, it might be a tight fit keeping the band together, so to speak.

I don’t know how these pieces are gonna fit just yet,” Brown said. “We have a pretty good idea of how much we have to spend, how it’s accounted for and the cap. And we don’t know yet where these other deals are going to end up. But we know that we will be pressed to fit them all in. We hope to fit some of them in.”

With Burrow’s contract considered the biggest piece to the puzzle, it would seem difficult to negotiate deals with other players, but neither Brown nor Tobin offered much insight into how dragged-out conversations with Burrow’s representatives might impact others.

Brown declined to comment and Tobin said he had “no idea.”

“We’ll see what they look like if something gets done and how it fits together with others, but I don’t have any prediction on that,” Tobin said. “But we have a lot of good players that we’d like to keep around here for a long time and we’ll see what we can get done.”

The Bengals had, of course, hoped the deal with Burrow would be done before training camp, but Brown said he is “not shocked” it isn’t. Quarterbacks and rookies began camp Sunday with Burrow participating as expected, and the full team starts together Wednesday.

Tobin said there is no worry the lingering negotiations will impact Burrow’s preparations. Asked what the biggest factors are in the negotiations with Burrow, Tobin initially said he wasn’t “going to get into that,” but prompted further, he offered only a general summation.

“He wants to get paid what he feels is worthy money and we want to pay him what we feel is worthy money,” Tobin said. “It has to work out for both, but that’s the most I’ll say about it.”

The Bengals did free up some cap space by negotiating a contract restructure with Joe Mixon earlier this month, and that was an important piece of business to be able to keep another weapon on more manageable terms.

The Bengals also could still free up some space depending on how things look with right tackle La’el Collins’ return from major knee surgery. He is one of the four players opening camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list, which also includes cornerback Chidobe Awuzie.

Tobin said Awuzie and tight end Mitchell Wilcox, who re-signed Monday, appear close to being “up and going” soon, but offensive lineman Devin Cochran has a bit of a “longer term injury” and there’s still a lot of uncertainty with the timeline for Collins getting cleared.

“I don’t think we’re looking to rush any decisions there, and we’ll see how it plays out as we go,” Tobin said. “But it’s hard to predict right now.”

That seemed to be a theme Monday.

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