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"It’s Adorable How Much Joe Burrow and the Bengals Love Each Other"

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It’s Adorable How Much Joe Burrow and the Bengals Love Each Other

Burrow has had plenty of reasons to smile since he got to Cincinnati. Now he has a few million more.


By Conor Orr
Originally Published: September 8, 2023
Cincinnati has been working to shed its old reputation for being frugal since the moment the franchise QB arrived.

People tend to talk more about the divorce rate than we do the married couples that stay together. A behavioral psychologist will tell you that it’s just our negative biases, an evolutionary tool that kept ancient humans aware of the possibility that a bear could pillage their cave dwelling at any moment.


So, we lose sight of what the Joe Burrow contract really is. The numbers are eye-popping, certainly. ESPN first reported the particulars of the deal, which will pay Burrow a market-topping $55 million per year over the next half decade, which is almost $3 million more per season than Justin Herbert will get from the Chargers. It’s nearly 10 times the largest guarantee Cincinnati has ever handed out in a contract, and $1 million more in total guarantees than Herbert’s deal. It’s a sign that the Bengals are very serious about their current Super Bowl window. It’s a sign that Burrow internally has aligned with the expectations that most quarterback-knowledgeable folks have of him on the outside: that he has the potential to be one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.


Mostly, though, the contract is adorable. At a time when some teams are publicly warring with their best players, the Bengals continue to shower affection on their quarterback. The pair are like two hand-holding octogenarians who still slow dance every night before bed. Have you ever seen one of those car commercials during Christmastime and wonder who the hell loves someone so much that they’d slap a bow on a brand new Lexus and park it in the driveway? Burrow doesn’t need to anymore.


We’ve pointed this out before: The Bengals had a reputation as a franchise rooted in the frugal arts, but since Zac Taylor arrived and Burrow was drafted, all they’ve done is spend money. They bought Burrow an entirely new offensive line and kept on buying after that. They sold the naming rights to the stadium to generate more income. They opted for the flowers and the chocolates. The bracelet and the earrings.


After watching one generational prospect in Carson Palmer come and go two decades back, it’s safe to say that the Bengals have learned how to love and appreciate something while they have it. They are not only building a future with Burrow, but, like so many of us who live with regrets, are also trying to simultaneously bury a past.


Which brings us to the next point: Many speculating on the particulars of Burrow’s contract (myself included) assumed the deal would include something that would allow the team to keep star wide receiver trio Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd together. Higgins and Boyd will be free agents after this season. Chase, who may soon see his own price tag sail north of $30 million per season upon the completion of a Justin Jefferson contract, will be up the year after that, though he’d be wise to start those conversations as soon as possible.


The safe assumption would be that, if Burrow wants it done it will be done, because the infatuated Bengals have not signaled otherwise at any point in his tenure. As any good agent will tell you, the salary cap is a myth for teams truly interested in roster investment. The Bengals will soon prove that theory correct if they are interested in continuing their second act as both a benevolent and winning franchise.


There is so much callousness in professional football, but there does seem to be a genuine love between the Bengals, their city and their quarterback. Burrow has earned the money and the adulation for his willingness to shoulder a place’s burdens and sorrows. He’s earned the hazard pay, taking record-breaking sack numbers while the team scoured free agency for reinforcements.


Thursday night was supposed to belong to Patrick Mahomes, or the ascending Lions, or Roger Goodell fumbling through a televised answer to a question about problem gambling (in case you missed it, the NFL is doing you a favor by constantly begging you to hand over your bank account information to participate in a possible life-ruining event). But, thanks to the Bengals, it was also about how much one team knows it needs one player. They couldn’t wait another day to let everyone know about it. 



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