CINCINNATI — The Bengals are dead serious about doing everything in their power to keep their franchise quarterback protected and get back to the Super Bowl and win it.
The signing of Orlando Brown Jr. to a four-year, $64 million contract with $31.1 million guaranteed shows the Bengals are most certainly committed to contending for a Super Bowl for the indefinite future with Joe Burrow.
I asked Brown if he’s given serious thought to being part of the first Bengals team to win a Super Bowl.
“I have. Me and Joe were talking about it (Thursday),” Brown told me. “It’s gonna be really cool. I believe that something is gonna happen, especially with No. 9, coaching. I mean, it’s just as I said, so many positive things I could say, but defensively, how well they are here, schematically, how great they are here, defensively, too. They’ve got all the pieces, in my opinion, and I’m very, very, very happy to be part of it.”
Orlando Brown has won a Super Bowl as a starting left tackle protecting Patrick Mahomes. He protected Lamar Jackson when he won an MVP in 2019. He’s been the Pro Bowl. He’s been an All-Pro. Now, he has a chance to help make special history in Cincinnati.
“You’re getting a competitor, and I think I’ve proven that. You’re getting a competitive left tackle that loves to block one-on-one, loves to have those opportunities. You’re getting somebody that’s a leader in the locker room, that’s going to be a leader in the offensive line room. That’s my responsibility, to do my best and go out there and compete at a high level every single week, every single day. You’re getting a fierce, competitive left tackle.”
Orlando Brown Jr. has already had dinner with Joe Burrow pic.twitter.com/stIhYcM8nD
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) March 17, 2023
Bengals offensive line coach Frank Pollack is certainly sold on Brown fitting in perfectly in his offensive line room with the likes of Ted Karras, Alex Cappa and Cordell Volson.
“That’s huge. To me that’s line one,” Pollack said. “In the O-line room, culture is everything. You’ve gotta earn your fit. It doesn’t matter who you are or how you’re coming at it into the room. You gotta be part of that culture. I think he’s gonna be a great part of that culture. He’s gonna work hard, he’s got a great personality, he’s not a primadonna, he’s not a diva. He’s all about ball. He’s got a great lineage, so he understands the history of football in the league and a respect for it, which is kinda cool to see.
“Culture is everything. It’s huge in our locker room. It’s the secret sauce of teams that have success. The NFL wanted parity and they got it. What separates teams is football character and leadership in the room that comes out from the players. We are very fortunate that Zac and Duke have done an outstanding job of cultivating that and brought in players that help cultivate that and it permeates throughout the whole locker room. And it’s found its way into my room. That’s line one. Hang my hat on that until the day I die. If you don’t have that, you don’t have a chance.”
Pollack couldn’t have been more excited when news broke of the Brown signing.
“Really my hat’s off to Duke and his crew and the ownership, because it really kind of came out of nowhere,” Pollack said. “I was not expecting us to be in position to do anything for someone of his caliber. It just kind of came on our radar, with me anyway, the day that we got that deal done. It was exciting.
“They said hey, take a look at this guy, he might be in play. I’m like ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. Really? Wow!” So it was surprising. Like I mentioned, the ownership group and Duke, man, and his crew. It was fantastic. It was an exciting day for the Bengals.”
And a new one.
Yes, the Bengals have been transitioning to a new level of respect around the NFL for the last two seasons. But to go out and get your blindside protector and let the quarterback know the organization is continuing to do everything possible to protect the franchise is next level football investing.
The Bengals this week showed they’re not only playing chess. They’re playing 3-D chess with implications that could free up their roster in a most advantageous way.
They knew the signing of Brown wouldn’t cause Jonah Williams to pop bottles of champagne. They knew he would be a bit out of sorts with the team committing to a new player to come in and take over right tackle. Williams doesn’t want to move to right tackle and who knows what the future is with La’el Collins.
So he made a trade request Friday. Can’t blame him. But look at it from the Bengals’ perspective. You have a tackle that doesn’t want to play on the right side, he certainly doesn’t want to be a backup and he’s owed $12.6 million for 2023. If they trade him to a team that needs a starting caliber left tackle – and there’s a boatload of them – they can get something back (player or draft pick), invest in the future and likely unload that cap number.
Pollack said Friday that the right tackle position is still up in the air. That means Jackson Carman, Hakeem Adeniji, Cody Ford, D’Ante Smith or a draft pick. Four of the five spots are locked down going into camp. That’s not perfect but light years from where they were before Burrow began his 2021 season, and miles ahead of where they were after his 19-sack postseason including Super Bowl LVI.
Frank Pollack explains why he’s thrilled to have Orlando Brown Jr. As Bengals LT for next 4 years. pic.twitter.com/l3Eh73t1MC
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) March 17, 2023
They Bengals still might use the pick at 28 to draft a right tackle (Dawand Jones??) or go with a tight end or running back.
“When it officially got done late at night, I guess I was already in bed sleeping,” Pollack said of the Wednesday night news. “I woke up to a bunch of text messages early in the morning. I was like, ‘It must have went down. Wow.’ It was a little surprising and exciting. I didn’t need much coffee to wake me up that morning, I’ll tell you that. That was fun.”
Not that Burrow needed any more proof that the team wants him in Cincinnati for the entirety of his career, but committing that kind of money to one position one year after bringing in an entire new interior offensive line and signing a right tackle that may or may not work out is an indication that the Bengals don’t plan on running short on depth options like they did last year when they lost Collins, Alex Cappa and Jonah Williams at the end of the season.
Throw in Cody Ford, a versatile interior lineman with right tackle experience and you get idea.
At the beginning of the week, the talk (including here in this space) was understandably about losing both starting safeties, the top two tight ends and uncertainty at the running back position with Samaje Perine gone to Denver.
Two days later, the Bengals have flipped the script.
Just hours after introducing Brown to the Cincinnati media, they signed Nick Scott away from the Rams as a likely replacement to Vonn Bell at strong safety. Scott, an athletic down-in-the-box player, will turn 28 in May and will team with free safety Dax Hill.
They had another Joe Burrow LSU college teammate over for a visit in tight end Foster Moreau, who had 33 catches for 420 yards with the Raiders last season.
All the while, the Bengals have their sights set on contract extensions with Logan Wilson and of course, Burrow.
I asked Brown about his late father, Orlando Sr., and the impact he had on him. It’s ironic that the son of one of the biggest thorns in the side of the Bengals for years is now protecting the blindside of the franchise quarterback. Orlando Sr. died in 2011 from complications of diabetes but he still has a momentous impact on Jr.
“He had a huge impact on me,” Brown said. “It’s a lot because obviously he’s not here. He had a huge impact on me, where I’m at in life, he gave me so much insight as far as the game and learning things. Most importantly, being an amazing person off the field. I’m so thankful for both my parents and I’m thankful for my father for all the lessons taught and learned. I could talk about that for hours.”
Years ago, back in the infancy of Chad Johnson’s career with the Bengals, there was that time when Chad thought it would be hilarious to prank Sr. by jumping on his back before a regular season game at Paul Brown Stadium.
Do you know the story of Chad Johnson jumping on your dads back?
“I can’t remember who he was talking to but my dad is warming up and he’s real rough and rugged guy,” Jr. said. “And you know, when he came game day, I couldn’t even talk to him as his son. So he didn’t mess around. And believe it or not Chad Johnson jumps on his back. And my dad’s him around the field.
“And they say the visual was Chad Johnson backpedaling around the stadium in a circle and said hey I am just playing. I’m just kidding. And long story short, my dad takes them into the locker room. Police had to stop it from getting in a locker room team security came out and grabbed him. And yeah, so I could only imagine how mad he was. I couldn’t even ask for a handshake.”
Those days seem eons ago. Now, the Bengals are working at light speed toward a first Super Bowl for Cincinnati.