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Mike Brown didn't hide his affection for Joe Burrow. Last season, with the then-second-year quarterback under center, the Bengals' longtime owner watched his franchise make an improbable Super Bowl run that has rejuvenated his franchise and long-suffering fan base. 

"Everyone here likes him," Brown said of Burrow on Monday, via ESPN. "Sometimes it's so good you want to pinch yourself."

Joe Burrow
CIN • QB • #9
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Brown called a future contract extension for Burrow "our most important issue." Burrow, who is entering the third year of his rookie deal, won Comeback Player of the Year last season after leading the NFL in completion percentage. Burrow enjoyed tremendous success getting the ball to Ja'Marr Chase, his former college teammate who won Offensive Rookie of the Year. 

Speaking of Chase, Brown alluded to the Bengals securing a new contract for him once the franchise quarterback has been taken care of. 

"We see the train coming," Brown said of Burrow's extension, via "Then behind him is the receivers pretty soon."

Ja'Marr Chase
CIN • WR • #1
REC YDs1455
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An extension appears to also be in order for receiver Tee Higgins, a 2020 second-round pick who caught 141 passes for 1,091 yards and 12 touchdowns during his first two NFL seasons. Higgins was dominant in the 2021 postseason: he caught 18 passes for 309 yards that included a pair of touchdown catches against the Rams in Super Bowl LVI. 

Tee Higgins
CIN • WR • #5
REC YDs1091
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Keeping all three players won't be easy. Elite quarterbacks command a minimum annual salary of $40 million. This past offseason, Aaron Rodgers, Kyler Murray and Deshaun Watson inked contracts that will respectively pay them $50.27 million, $46.1 million and $46 million annually. 

The going rate for top-flight receivers has also increased. Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, DeAndre Hopkins, Cooper Kupp and A.J. Brown each make $25 million or more per season. A dozen receivers make at least $20 million annually. Chase will likely look to become the league's next $25 million wideout, while Higgins is currently on track to join the list of $20 million receivers when he comes to the bargaining table. 

As far as the quarterback position is concerned, Brown praised another AFC quarterback's handling of his recent contract situation. It's safe to assume that Brown is hoping to have the same experience with Burrow, whose contract will more than likely be addressed during the upcoming offseason. 

"I like what [Patrick] Mahomes said," Brown said. "He wasn't bothered by all those big quarterback contracts that came after his because he had enough to set him up for a lifetime anyway. I can't tell you how this is going to unfold. I can tell you that we couldn't be happier with Joe Burrow. He's everything you would wish for, especially for a quarterback in Cincinnati. Our whole focus is going to be on keeping him here."