With Justin Jefferson Deal Done, How Soon Will Bengals Sign Ja’Marr Chase?

Ja'Marr Chase has said he was willing to wait out Justin Jefferson's contract before signing with the Bengals, so now both sides are on the clock.

CINCINNATI — Ja’Marr Chase has said on multiple occasions he was willing to wait on his new contract until after former LSU teammate Justin Jefferson signed.

“Hell, yeah,” he said with a laugh when the question was posed Jan. 4 ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals‘ season finale against the Cleveland Browns.

But just because Jefferson agreed to a four-year, $140 million extension to remain with the Minnesota Vikings today, don’t expect Chase to immediately be blowing up the phones of Duke Tobin and Katie Blackburn in the Cincinnati front office.

Justin Jefferson Contract Starts Clock on Ja’Marr Chase Deal With Bengals

Chase is under contract with the Bengals for two more seasons, and his value is only going in one direction. If he was willing to wait out Jefferson, why not wait out CeeDee Lamb, too?

Jefferson’s $35 million per year surpasses Nick Bosa as the highest average annual value for any non-quarterback in the NFL. And Lamb certainly will have an argument to move into that category when he negotiates his next deal.

Lamb has two All-Pro selections to Jefferson’s three, but he has more catches (395 to 392) and touchdowns (35 to 31). Jefferson, however, has appeared in six fewer games, and his 5,899 yards still easily outdistance Lamb’s 5,145.

In addition to his preference for patience, Chase also talked about what will be most important in the structure of his new deal when the big payday comes.

“Probably just up front (guaranteed money), for real,” Chase said.

What about guaranteed money in Year 2?

“I don’t know. You’re goin’ a little too far now,” Chase joked with a reporter. “I gave you a little spice. Don’t take all of it.”

The guaranteed money is where the Bengals, Chase and his agent, Rocky Arceneaux, will be focused during negotiations. Topping Jefferson’s $35 million per year average is a given.

Jefferson’s $110 million in guarantees is also the highest figure in the league for a non-quarterback, topping Bosa’s $88 million.

The Bengals have avoided huge guarantees by rule. But Joe Burrow’s contract changed all of that when the team gave him $146.5 guaranteed.

The most Cincinnati has ever paid a non-quarterback in guarantees is $31.1 million — part of the four-year, $64.1 million deal they awarded Orlando Brown Jr. in March 2023. The $31.1 million is 86th highest among non-quarterbacks.

But the Bengals have been committed to keeping Burrow and Chase (who has yet to report for any of the voluntary offseason program) together for as long as possible, which is the single biggest reason Tee Higgins doesn’t have an extension in Cincinnati.

The front office has known for years what it was going to take to keep Chase as Burrow’s top weapon. The interesting part will be the timing.

While Chase won’t be in a hurry, it could make sense for the Bengals to want to get it done sooner rather than later because the price is only going to rise.

The Miami Dolphins (Jaylen Waddle), Philadelphia Eagles (DeVonta Smith), and Detroit Lions (Amon-Ra St. Brown) acted fast to complete their deals before Jefferson signed. Had they waited, the Waddle, Smith, and St. Brown contracts, which are already massive, would have been even larger.

Stefon Diggs’ contract expires after this season, but other than he, Chase, and Lamb, it doesn’t appear as though there will be any receivers capable of topping Jefferson and resetting the market anytime soon. However, Brandon Aiyuk could insert his name in the conversation with a huge season.

The list of receivers whose contracts expire after 2024, listed by current AAV.

  • Stefon Diggs ($22.5M)
  • Tee Higgins ($21.8M)
  • Keenan Allen ($20M)
  • Amari Cooper ($20M)
  • Chris Godwin ($20M)
  • Brandin Cooks ($19.9M)
  • Diontae Johnson ($18.4M)
  • CeeDee Lamb ($3.5M)
  • Brandon Aiyuk ($3.1M)

So, waiting probably will not cost the Bengals much more money, if any. Plus, extending Chase this summer would be another wedge in the deterioration of the relationship with Higgins.

Chase, who received $30.8 million guaranteed when he signed his rookie deal, is due another $4.9 million this year. In 2025, the number balloons to $21.8 million with the Bengals picking up his fifth-year option.

Chase always said he was willing to get in line behind Jefferson. The question now is how much longer he is willing to wait. And how long will the Bengals want to put it off?

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