The Cincinnati Bengals desperately need an outdated NFL to be changed.
Earlier this week, the Arizona Cardinals finalized a lucrative contract extension with quarterback Kyler Murray. The deal is worth $230.5 million over five years. It includes $160 million guaranteed for injury.
According to ESPN, the only deal with more guaranteed money in NFL history is Deshaun Watson’s fully-guaranteed $230 million deal with the Cleveland Browns.
Murray’s deal just further solidifies that Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is going to command a ridiculous amount of cash when he’s eligible for an extension (after the 2022 season).
And that’s a big problem for the Bengals.
One of the biggest issues the Bengals face in contract talks is guaranteed money. An archaic NFL rule demands that teams put all guaranteed money from a contract into an escrow account upfront. This is a problem for a cash-strapped team like the Bengals who may not have a few hundred million bucks on hand to just store away for a couple of years.
With Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins due for big extensions soon, it could mean that Cincinnati will face some issues in those contract talks (this is likely one major reason why the Jessie Bates extension talks went south).
If the NFL would change that rule, it would make life on the Bengals much easier.
And here’s the thing — it can easily be changed. It’s not part of a collective bargaining agreement.
NFL owners could just simply change the rule. But they don’t want to change it. They’d prefer to use it as a negotiating tool.
Part of the issue is the league’s so-called “funding rule” that requires team owners to put into escrow the same amount of money they’re guaranteeing a player. This rule has been in place since well before the league became an 11-figure business, and there’s little reason to have it in place as revenues continue to climb each non-COVID year. Still…
“Despite all the player empowerment and salary raises that happened this summer,” one source recently told me, “the owners are still leaning on that more than they should in negotiations.”
There doesn’t need to be a new CBA for the league and the NFLPA to abolish the funding rule, but as long as team owners have that crutch, why would they give it up?
This rule could massively impact what the Bengals do in the next couple of years. It’s going to be hard for them to give Burrow, Chase, and Higgins the contracts the market will say they deserve while also taking care of the rest of the roster.
If this rule changes, it would allow the Bengals to include more guaranteed money in their offers without putting the team’s finances in a bad spot.
The rule is pointless, so maybe the Bengals can work on getting it changed over the next year. It might be the only way they can keep their core group of stars together.
Featured image via Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports