Cincinnati Bengals president Mike Brown is already managing expectations with important negotiations on the horizon.
Quarterback Joe Burrow is up for an extension this year, a crucial deal to seal. At the same time, the reigning AFC North champions will be in talks with wide receiver Tee Higgins and linebacker Logan Wilson, who are also up for extensions. Next year, two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase will become eligible for a new deal.
Speaking Monday at the Bengals' annual media luncheon, Brown offered reporters two different food analogies to illustrate just how difficult it will be to manage all the upcoming business due to salary-cap constraints.
He mentioned he was "bound" to not speaking about Burrow's contract, but he made it clear that the 26-year-old would be the team's first concern.
"Think of the cap as a pie. Once you take out one piece, there's less left for the next guy," Brown said. "It's impossible to fit everyone in at the rate they wish they could be paid."
When asked if the team would prioritize "making sure Joe [Burrow], Ja'Marr [Chase] and Tee [Higgins] get a slice of pie," Brown was candid about the situation.
"Well, it's pretty obvious that Joe is the heart of the matter," he said. "And after that, we want all the guys we can get, but we may have to go short in a couple cases."
Mike Brown deflected Joe Burrow contract questions saying both sides promised to keep it private.
But this is an interesting two minutes. It's Mike Brown on the financial challenge of keeping Cincinnati's big three: Burrow, Chase, Higgins. pic.twitter.com/pGEAlPPL63
— Joe Danneman (@FOX19Joe) July 24, 2023
If the pie comparison didn't make things clear, try this one:
"We have some good players that need to be fed," Brown said. "That's a challenge. It's mathematical. You get a bag of corn, and you have 10 hogs. Well, you're going to put that out to them. The bag's going to be empty. And some of them aren't going to get it."
In preparation for his fourth year in the NFL, Burrow was present when rookies reported to training camp Sunday. He threw for 4,475 yards during the 2022 regular season, passing for a career-high 35 touchdowns and rushing for five, also a career high.
Higgins' 2022-23 saw 74 catches for 1,029 yards and seven touchdowns. Wilson notched 71 solo tackles, 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble and an interception. Chase was able to record 87 passes for 1,046 yards with nine touchdowns, despite missing four games due to a hip injury.
Ahead of negotiations with all of them, Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin emphasized the desire to keep the band together.
"We're not out looking to replace them with other guys," Tobin said Monday, via ESPN. "We'd like to keep them around. We'll see if that's possible. I can't predict that, but we're definitely hopeful that we have long-term relationships with the guys."