CINCINNATI — Tyler Boyd and Sam Hubbard both said the players in the Cincinnati Bengals locker room knew Joe Burrow’s contract extension likely would get done this week but it’s “a relief” for everyone to know his future is secure.
Burrow and the Bengals reached an agreement on a five-year, $275 million contract extension Thursday, and the news broke just as the Kansas City Chiefs’ game against the Detroit Lions was about to kick off to open the NFL season.
The record contract was still being reviewed Friday afternoon, but Burrow is expected to sign in the near future to make it official. In the meantime, the Bengals received an emotional and mental lift knowing their quarterback no longer faces the uncertainty that comes with a negotiation process.
“The future is secure,” Hubbard said. “I know this locker room is very excited and relieved that he’s going to be our quarterback for the foreseeable future, and it was a special day. I’m happy for him.”
Hubbard, who has known Burrow since they played together at Ohio State early in Burrow’s collegiate career, got a text a few minutes before the news broke. Boyd saw the news come across the ESPN app on his phone.
“I was just kind of relieved because a lot of guys play better, and it’s more stress relief knowing that you got your back secure and the organization believes in you, trusts in you, and now you go out there just kind of cut it loose,” Boyd said.
Boyd said the Bengals weren’t worried about Burrow’s contract situation negatively impacting his play if it wasn’t done before Sunday because he’s dealt with more adversity than that in his career, but it does help him focus and play better.
Hubbard was the first Bengal to witness the adversity Burrow has been through, having seen him go from being a third-string and backup quarterback his first three seasons at OSU to eventually winning a Heisman trophy and leading LSU to a national championship before the Bengals drafted him. Now it’s fun seeing Burrow rewarded with a big contract.
“It’s inspirational because so many ups and downs in his career, and just staying who he is through it all, keeping his work ethic, never changing, never letting anything shake his confidence in himself, it’s inspirational for sure,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard was campaigning for the Bengals to draft Burrow with their No. 1 overall pick in 2020 because he “knew it’d be a perfect fit.” He saw Burrow as someone who could “inspire a whole locker room and change the direction of a whole franchise,” and that came to fruition in just his second season with he led Cincinnati to the Super Bowl.
Burrow has said the window to win championships is as long as he’s playing, and Hubbard is “thankful” to the people in the organization who recognized that by making him the team’s long-term quarterback. He’ll be signed through 2029.
“Without him out there on the field, we don’t feel the same,” Hubbard said. “We’re not the same Bengals. He’s our guy, he’s our quarterback. He inspires this locker room, this team, this city. They made him the quarterback of the future for a reason. I’m happy to have him.”
Wide receiver Tee Higgins said Burrow came back to Paycor Stadium on Friday morning just like nothing had happened, straight-faced and ready to work as the Bengals continued preparations for Sunday’s opener at Cleveland.
Higgins made clear Friday he was happy for Burrow, and even though his teammates knew he would become the highest paid player in the game, the final figure was still a little shocking. He joked he hopes Burrow buys a jet his teammates can all use.
“That’s life changing,” Higgins said. “He can go buy whatever, for real. He can buy an island if he wants to. It’s very exciting.”
Higgins doesn’t know what Burrow’s contract means for him, though. He was a second-round pick in the draft that brought Burrow to Cincinnati as the No. 1 overall pick in 2020, and he also is extension eligible. Linebacker Logan Wilson, the team’s third-round pick in 2020, signed a four-year extension Aug. 4, and Ja’Marr Chase will be due for one next year.
Bengals president and owner Mike Brown said before training camp the front office will try to fit in as many pieces as possible but the reality is not everyone can get paid.
“For me, I don’t know what that means, but, you know, I’m still going to do my job and do what I need to do to help this team get the W,” Higgins said.
Higgins said he is hoping his agent is furiously working to get a deal done the next couple of days so he also will have that relief before the start of the season, but he’s not focused on that. His job is to “just work and catch balls from No. 9.” The competitor in him wants to just “play the game” and set himself up for the future.
Ultimately, the Bengals all have one goal that helps them stay focused on football and not on the business side and that’s winning a Super Bowl. But, Higgins has personal goals he also wants to achieve, starting with earning a Pro Bowl invitation and proving himself as a No. 1 wide receiver and a player worth that level contract.
“I definitely want to show that I can be a No. 1,” Higgins said. “I feel like I have before, but there’s always room for improvement and I feel like I definitely need to improve on more because, you know, my resume is not as good as the greats, so I’ve got a lot of a lot more work to do. And I look forward to, you know, putting in the work to get that done.”
Boyd said the same can be said for Burrow, even after earning his contract.
“Now it’s time to win a championship,” Boyd said. “That’s what you’re remembered as because I mean, when he’s done playing, the number one, the highest paid player is going to continue to go up. So, I mean, he’s not going to be remembered as the highest paid player in the NFL, he’s going to be remembered as winning Super Bowls.”
Bengals at Browns, 1 p.m., CBS, 1290, 1530, 95.7, 102.7, 104.7