A contract extension isn't Joe Burrow's primary concern heading into his third season with the Cincinnati Bengals.
"It doesn't mean anything if I go in and stink it up this year," the quarterback told reporters Wednesday, adding, "I'm focused on this year."
Burrow is scheduled to become a free agent in 2025, but he'll be eligible to sign a new contract once the 2022 season ends. Teams have an incentive to strike a deal sooner rather than later because waiting often means watching the quarterback market climb.
Bengals officials are saying the right things when it comes to keeping Burrow.
"I can tell you that we couldn't be happier with Joe Burrow," Bengals team president Mike Brown said in July. "He's everything you would wish for, especially for a quarterback in Cincinnati. Our whole focus is going to be on keeping him here."
The franchise's selling of the naming rights to Paul Brown Stadium (now Paycor Stadium) can be seen as strengthening its financial position ahead of negotiations with Burrow's representatives.
Deshaun Watson's fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million deal with the Cleveland Browns could be a game-changer in terms of how elite quarterbacks are compensated. Aaron Rodgers broke new ground as well when he got more than $50 million annually on his three-year extension with the Green Bay Packers.
Humble though he may be, Burrow doesn't have a lot to prove.
The 25-year-old averaged 268.8 yards per game with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions in 10 games as a rookie before tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee. He came back even better in 2021, leading the NFL in completion percentage (70.4) while throwing for 4,611 yards, 34 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
The Bengals aren't in a position to play hardball. Beyond what it would mean on the field, allowing Burrow to leave over money would send a terrible message to the fanbase.
A poor season would adversely impact the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner's future earnings, but he'll have Cincinnati over a barrel as long as he remains healthy and upright across the season.