What Joe Burrow might lack in modesty, he more than makes up for in accuracy. The Cincinnati Bengals‘ window is indeed Burrow’s “whole career” — assuming he continues to play like he has his first three years.
But that doesn’t mean the Bengals can just roll out the ball in Week 1 and expect to dominate. Their roster needs work, particularly with roughly 20 free agents — including a bunch of major contributors.
We go through it all — including cut candidates and team needs — in our Cincinnati Bengals offseason preview
Cincinnati Bengals Offseason Preview: Money Talks
The Bengals won the AFC North for the second straight year, and depending on whether Deshaun Watson gets his act together this offseason, the gap might be growing.
But the downside of having a bunch of really good players who win a bunch of games is they eventually want to get paid.
And the bill will soon come due — starting with QB1. Burrow is, for the first time, eligible for a contract extension this offseason, and the Bengals would be wise not to play any games.
Since the start of the 2021 season, he’s second in the NFL in EPA+CPOE composite (.162) — behind only Patrick Mahomes and ahead of Josh Allen.
Mahomes, in 2020, signed a 10-year, $450 million contract ($45 million AAV). The salary cap at the time was $198.2 million.
Allen, in 2021, signed a six-year, $258 million contract ($43 million AAV). The salary cap at the time was $182.5 million.
The NFL salary cap has still yet to be set for 2023, but estimates are in the neighborhood of $225 million. That means Burrow should accept nothing less than the biggest contract in NFL history — one that pays him in excess of $50 million a year in new money.
Cincinnati can certainly afford it. And cannot afford not to.
Bengals’ 2023 Salary Cap Space
According to Spotrac, the Bengals, as of early January, had $48.9 million in 2023 salary cap space, giving them the sixth-best situation in the NFL.
That figure includes less than $1 million in dead cap and $2.1 million in rollover space.
Bengals Free Agents 2023
The following Bengals players are set to hit free agency. (Restricted free agents are noted with the abbreviation RFA; exclusive rights free agents by ERFA.)
- LS Cal Adomitis
- QB Brandon Allen
- CB Eli Apple
- LB Joe Bachie
- S Jessie Bates III
- SS Vonn Bell
- CB Jalen Davis
- CB Tre Flowers
- LS Clark Harris
- TE Hayden Hurst
- LB Clay Johnston
- RB Samaje Perine
- LB Germaine Pratt
- TE Drew Sample
- G Max Scharping
- WR Trent Taylor
- FS Michael Thomas
- TE Mitchell Wilcox
- RB Trayveon Williams
Safety Jessie Bates III
Spotrac’s calculated market value: Four years, $42.5 million ($10.6 million AAV)
Overview: The drama that was Bates’ 2022 offseason probably will not be repeated. The Bengals likely will not use the franchise tag on him again for many reasons. Among them: They drafted his replacement in Dax Hill last April. But the Bengals do face the reality of potentially losing both Bates and fellow safety Vonn Bell, which would immediately turn one of the team’s strengths into a potential liability. Bates, in 2022, had arguably the best season of his career in coverage.
Cornerback Tre Flowers
Spotrac’s calculated market value: Three years, $34.4 million ($11.5 million AAV)
Overview: There’s got to be a glitch in Spotrac’s algorithm when it comes to Flowers’ valuation. He was a glorified special teamer for most of 2022, and any team that pays him like a top-20 corner in the NFL will almost certainly regret it. That doesn’t mean Flowers wouldn’t be a smart addition at the right price. But he’s more of a No. 4 corner than a No. 1 or 2.
Potential Cut Candidates
- OT La’el Collins ($4.3 million in savings)
Bengals’ Team Needs Heading Into 2023 Offseason
- Defensive Tackle
- Running Back