Bengals Owner Mike Brown Does Not Sound Like He's Willing to Pay Up to Keep Core Together

Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

The Cincinnati Bengals are flush with good problems as things stand. They have a superstar quarterback, a superstar wideout, and a tremendous supporting cast on both sides of the ball. It's led to the team's greatest successes in decades as Joe Burrow led Cincy to a Super Bowl appearance two years ago and made it back to the Conference Championship last year. The problem comes in the form of new contracts for Burrow and the other players who helped propel the Bengals to such heights. A team that good is not going to be cheap. Thus, it's a good problem to have.

Bengals owner Mike Brown probably doesn't feel that way as the guy who has to cut the checks. At the very least he did not sound particularly optimistic about the idea that the Bengals would pay up to keep the band together. When asked how the Bengals were going to manage the financial side of things Brown chose to explain how the salary cap works before stating that the nature of the cap means they're going to come up short in some negotiations.

Burrow is up for a new deal this offseason and will definitely have it signed before Week 1. There shouldn't be too much drama involved, either. Brown and the Bengals will give him whatever he wants. The only question is if he's going to go for a Patrick Mahomes lifetime deal setup where he gets paid near the top of the QB market but allows his team flexibility or if he wants to be the highest-paid QB in the league, full stop, for the foreseeable future. Whichever path he chooses the Bengals will wholeheartedly endorse it and give him a big ol' check to sign.

That isn't the case for anyone else. As the tweet above alluded to, Tee Higgins is entering the final year of his contract and a player of his production never plays the final year of their rookie deal without an extension in place. Higgins isn't as good as Ja'Marr Chase but he's better than almost all No. 2 receivers in the league and would probably be an undisputed No. 1 in some of the NFL's weaker receiving rooms. That means he's good enough to ask for high-end money but Cincy is going to push back on that. Why? Because they'll have to pay Chase next year when he's entering the final year of his own rookie deal, and he is an undeniable superstar who will ask for market-setting money and receive it.

This isn't a unique problem to the Bengals but the way the owner approached the question should be a little concerning for fans who hope he will not hesitate before shelling out the big bucks. Nothing he said is untrue and Cincinnati will probably lose Higgins because they want to keep Chase. That has nothing to do with his willingness to spend money. But the Bengals already have a reputation around the league for being cheap under Brown's tenure (most famously employing exactly three scouts in their draft department). Will he pinch pennies and force management to lowball Higgins to the point where it damages other relationships? Will he do the same with Chase?

If this were pretty much any other owner the answer would be no without any hesitation. The fact that it is not that way with Brown is worrisome for the long-term future of the Bengals.