The Bengals regard Joe Burrow as untouchable, months before he ever officially touches an NFL football.
That’s the ultimate meaning of Duke Tobin’s remarks about the team’s unwillingness to give up the top spot in the 2020 draft to any team that may have wanted to select the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner. Burrow, in the eyes of the Bengals, already has landed on the extremely short list of players who would be traded under no circumstances, to no team.
The Bengals are entitled to that opinion, and they may be right. Rarely if ever, however, is that distinction earned by someone who has never played. Just the other day, the dust settled on the fifth-year options for the 2017 first-round selections. The options exercised and not exercised reconfirm the reality that the draft, at its core, is a crapshoot. (Which also reconfirms the folly of applying grades in the immediate aftermath of any given draft.)
To the Bengals, however Burrow has joined the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson, and maybe Aaron Donald without ever actually playing, and despite the fact that, in theory, Burrow could still land on the “bust” side of the draft-pick ledger.
What if the Dolphins had offered three 2020 first-round picks along with future first-round picks in 2021 and 2022 for the Burrow spot? By rule, teams can trade selections up to three drafts into the future. What if the Dolphins had made a Ricky Williams offer that encompassed not all of one draft (and part of another) but all of two drafts, or three?
At some point, would the Bengals have said yes? At some point, they would have had no choice but to do so.
Taking Tobin’s comments to the extreme, the Bengals would have declined a straight-up offer of Patrick Mahomes for the first overall pick in the draft. Obviously, the Chiefs would never make that offer. Would the Bengals truly never accept it?
Anyone who knows anything about football would make that trade in a heartbeat. So either the Bengals don’t know anything about football, or they’re simply blowing a little smoke to defend rejecting whatever the Dolphins offered, since it clearly wasn’t the kind of offer that the Bengals couldn’t, wouldn’t, or shouldn’t have refused. Regardless, the fact that no team in its right mind would have said no to Mahomes or Wilson or Jackson or three full years of draft picks for the right to pick shows that Joe Burrow isn’t untradable.
At least not yet. By next year or the year after, that could change. If it does, it would be the best thing that has happened to the Bengals in decades, if not ever.