As Joe Burrow's star has risen while he has become one of the top talents in the NFL, so has the visibility of his organization.
The Cincinnati Bengals, a traditionally small market franchise that has often been one of the more under-the-radar in the league, has emerged.
When the Bengals play the Bills today in the AFC Divisional Round, they will do so against the backdrop of a thriving business off the field that should help accomplish key football goals, as well.
Sources say the Bengals are targeting this offseason for a Burrow mega-contract extension, as their standout has finished the third year of his rookie contract. Burrow made roughly $3.9 million in cash year this year, per Spotrac, and he has one year remaining on his rookie deal in addition to a fifth-year option Cincinnati can pick up this offseason.
An extension will be expensive, with Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray's $46.1 million per year average serving as the floor for negotiations. Helping pay for a portion of Burrow's eventual payday is what fans have taken to calling PayJoe Stadium.
Prior to the 2022 regular season, the Bengals sold the naming rights to Paul Brown Stadium for the first time ever. It's now Paycor Stadium, which brings in a figure that the Cincinnati Business Courier estimated at $8-9 million per year.
They have an indoor facility that also has naming rights (Integrity Express Logistics); Kettering Health is the official healthcare partner; altafiber is the Wi-Fi sponsor; and there is even a sports betting partner -- Betfred.
Plus, attendance went up 10% during the 2022 season, the fourth-biggest increase in the league on a per-game basis.
All of which added revenue over the past couple of years, which will assist the team when salaries start to skyrocket. That said, according to those involved, the team isn't merely loading up to pay Burrow. In fact, the team's recent success -- thanks in part to Burrow, head coach Zac Taylor and the new wave -- actually opened business doors.
"When those doors aren't open, you can't walk through" is how one person involved described it. Companies want to be partners with the Bengals now -- no surprise that it all happens after a Super Bowl run -- which has created opportunities elsewhere.
As another person involved noted, it's not like they would turn down the deals if Burrow wasn't up for an extension. But certainly, they have leaned in and embraced it all.
Cincy has not recently been a low-spending team and the past two offseasons of free agency speak to that. That period was their window to spend without having to worry about a long-term deal for their QB.
A few weeks ago, Burrow was asked about winning inside this window.
"The window is my whole career," he said.