This is the Bengals’ special formula to win a Super Bowl

Joe Burrow #9, Tee Higgins #85 and Ja'Marr Chase #1 of the Cincinnati Bengals. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Joe Burrow #9, Tee Higgins #85 and Ja'Marr Chase #1 of the Cincinnati Bengals. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Bengals were just one win away from claiming a Super Bowl title in 2021, and this season they have all the roster pieces to make yet another championship appearance.

Whereas last year’s winners, the Los Angeles Rams, made an ultra-risky gamble that eventually paid off, the Bengals don’t seem interested in an “all-in,” win-now philosophy. Make no mistake, the Bengals are absolutely dead set on repeating last season’s success, but it’ll be on their own terms.

The Ringer recently released the “All In-dex,” which its writers describe as a way of “analyzing each NFL team’s spending and draft capital to determine who is All In for making the Super Bowl.”

Some teams, like the Rams and Browns, are clearly all in, while others, like the Seahawks and Giants, are all out.

The Bengals curiously rank in the middle of the pack at 16th overall, which has some questioning why they aren’t trying harder to win right now, why they aren’t going “all-in” as the Rams did last year.

While the Bengals’ spending this offseason was relatively much higher than years prior, going from bottom-five in spending to 14th overall, the team didn’t make that many blockbuster moves. They signed key additions to their offensive line but otherwise stayed quiet for the majority of free agency.

In fact, the biggest storyline of the summer is arguably the Bengals’ testy contract stalemate with star safety Jessie Bates, who has since begrudgingly signed his franchise tag and rejoined the team in camp.

Bengals want to be Super Bowl contenders for many years, not just in 2022

Much of the reason the Bengals haven’t splurged on players is because they’re saving their money to pay their irreplaceable franchise talents down the road.

As The Ringer’s Ben Solak points out:

"To go all in now by luring star free agents with big contracts and losing future, cheap deals by trading picks for players might feel nice, but not if it precludes them from making the grander moves they need in the future. It’s a honeytrap they must avoid."

Cincinnati was recently ranked dead last in the league in total team value at $3 billion, which means the Bengals don’t have a ton of funds to pay contracts — specifically, contracts that include hundreds of millions of guaranteed money.

Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, who are playing on their rookie contracts, won’t need an extension for the next few years, but when the times comes for them to get their due, their contracts — and the amounts of guaranteed money — could be astronomical.

As the two most premium positions in football, the quarterback and wide receiver markets will only continue to inflate, and unfortunately, Browns’ Deshaun Watson has set a rather nasty precedent (in more ways than one).

Instead of cashing out early and potentially being unable to extend Burrow and Chase in the future, the Bengals are playing the long game by pooling their chips and biding their time. As Solak puts it, it’s similar to a rebuy in poker:

"When a player rebuys, they spend their own money to purchase more chips, increasing their stack size at the table and allowing them to keep playing the games. The Bengals aren’t going all in—not just yet. They’re rebuying. They’re building their stack. They want to play this game, and if they play it right, they’ll have Burrow—and the possibility of contention—for years to come."

So if your disgruntled uncle asks questions like “Why aren’t the Bengals giving Bates his bag?” and “Why aren’t the Bengals throwing heaps of cash at elite players in free agency?”, This is why.

The long game.

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As long as the Bengals have Joe Burrow, they have a shot at winning the Super Bowl. To keep Burrow around for say, the next ten years compared to five years, they know they have to keep putting coins in the piggy bank.