Could Joe Burrow refuse to sign with Bengals after NFL Draft?

Thomas Barrabi
Fox Business

Louisiana State University star Joe Burrow hinted Monday that he has some control over his NFL future, even though the quarterback-needy Cincinnati Bengals hold the first pick in the 2020 draft and are widely expected to select him.

“I do have leverage,” Burrow told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “They have their process and I have my process. We haven’t even gotten to the (NFL) combine yet. There’s a lot of things that happen leading up to the draft and a lot of information gathered.”

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Burrow did not elaborate on what he meant by “leverage.” Most NFL draft prospects have no control over which team selects them, and the NFL’s rookie pay scale ensures that contract negotiations are a fairly straightforward process.

However, Burrow and his representatives could give pause to Bengals leadership if they say that he will refuse to sign with the franchise once drafted. Burrow wouldn’t be the first highly touted college quarterback to pursue that path.

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In 2004, then-Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning said he would refuse to sign with the San Diego Chargers, who held the first overall pick in that year’s draft. The declaration prompted the Chargers to negotiate a trade with the New York Giants, who dealt the rights to fellow quarterback prospect Phillip Rivers and other draft picks to acquire Manning.

For Manning, the decision paid off. He won two Super Bowls with the Giants and retired this offseason as the highest-earning player in NFL history.

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To date, Burrow has yet to say anything to definitely indicate that he would not play for the Bengals. The first pick in last year’s NFL Draft, Kyler Murray, signed a four-year contract worth about $35 million.

"I'd like to play football," Burrow said at a separate news conference, according to ESPN. "So whoever takes me -- I'm a ballplayer, I'm gonna play."

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