ORLANDO, Fla. -The NFL's annual meeting doesn't officially convene until Monday morning, but things got off to an informal start Sunday with some committee work for owners, general managers, and coaches.
The spring meeting is also when Bengals president Mike Brown sits down with local media and on Sunday he outlined his thoughts to Bengals.com and The Cincinnati Enquirer on keeping his AFC North champions intact while discussing some of the major NFL issues on the table this week.
-Citing the high cost of quarterbacks, Brown said a contract extension for Andy Dalton is central in the planning and strategy of keeping together a team that has been to the playoffs three straight seasons. The young core, led by Dalton and three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green, is heading into their contract years and Brown said Sunday the Bengals are trying to get a deal with Dalton so they can put other deals in place.
"We are going to try to get something done but I don't know if we are going to be able to or not," Brown said. "At some point we are going to have to do something more than just let everyone else leave waiting to get something done with that situation. We held back this year trying to put ourselves in a position to get him done. If it turns out it can't be made to work we will do something elsewhere. I don't think we plan to go another year the way we did this year."
Since Green was drafted in the top ten in 2011 (No. 4), the Bengals can tender him a one-year contract for 2015 at an average of the top 10 paid receivers in the NFL. The "fifth year option," is a product of the new CBA and the Green Class is the first one where it comes into use. The option has to be exercised by the first week in May. The Bengals, or course, plan to exercise it on their prized playmaker, on pace to break every franchise record.
Green's option year figures to be in the $11 million range. But Brown said they'd like to get a long-term deal with both. Dalton has no such option as a second-rounder in the same draft and is scheduled to be become an unrestricted free agent. "(Green is) going to be here for not one more year but two more years," Brown said. "Even though we haven't tendered him yet our intention is to do that and put ourselves in position to turn to others such as Dalton and we would like to turn to a couple more as well.
"We would like to get something long term (with Green), but at least we know with A.J. we have two years. With some of the others we have one year."
The QB number is typically the biggest on the roster. The transition number this year is $14.66 million and Brown talked about "the dilemma," facing teams. The salary cap is rising, but so are the quarterbacks' salaries that take such a chunk out of the cap.
"What do we do? Do we sign guys then find out we don't have enough to do him? Or do we risk and hold back enough to make sure we can get him done and maybe lose a guy or two?" Brown asked rhetorically as he thought of the free-agent loss of right end Michael Johnson a few weeks ago.
"When you go forward in this league it is not clear which is the better way to go. Do you have a high-priced quarterback and less elsewhere or do you try to have as many guys as you can have and maybe a quarterback that is young and not so highly paid?" Brown asked. "Seattle, for example of that. In fact, you look at the statistics it is rather surprising how few quarterbacks that are old in recent years — saying over 30 — have won the Super Bowl. They've gotten there but they haven't won it. I don't know is that (a) better formula to go with a younger guy and spread the money around? That's a dilemma for us. We are trying to work through it. It's slow going. I can't predict when we are going to get that matter resolved."
-Earlier this month the Bengals extended head coach Marvin Lewis for a year through the 2015 season despite the blistering criticism from the upset loss in the wild card game to San Diego. Lewis has often said that Brown is more patient than him. On Sunday, Brown reiterated he's patient. He believes Lewis is the coach of a team that has a strong, talented nucleus.
"Listen, no one wants to win that playoff game more than Marvin does. Believe me, this last year we thought we were going to win this playoff game finally, everything had aligned and lo and behold we found a way not to," Brown said. "Does that upset some people? I think it does, but they aren't just the people watching in the stands it's the people playing, the people coaching, the people in my situation, we all wanted to get that done.
"But my reaction to disappointment is not lop off people's heads. I think we proved that we were pretty good, that we have a good, solid football team. I don't know that starting over suddenly is the best way to take the next step. I think we have a strong base, we can build on that. One of these days we won't fumble and they will. If that is patience, then I guess I am patient."
The negotiating process would surprise people, Brown said. He wanted to get the issue out of the way so it wasn't "hanging" around.
"Everyone else is taken care of. It didn't seem to me Marvin shouldn't get taken care of so we are all going forward without having that hanging over us," Brown said. "It's never acrimonious. It just is the two of us being willing to go forward. He's conscious of the numbers that are around and about. I'm conscious of our situation and what it can afford. So we try to compromise those two conflicting interests. Usually we get it done. In fact, we always have gotten it done."
Including the original three-year deal, they've gotten it done seven times.
-Brown doesn't anticipate playoff expansion being approved this week. But he thinks it will be done in time for the 2015 season. One team each from the AFC and NFC would be added, giving rise to another wild card. Brown said it sounds like that might be a good compromise to make changes to the preseason.
"If you had another wild card game, that would produce a revenue stream that could be used to offset money lost if you did something with the preseason," Brown said. "I'm not saying there's just one thing to do with the preseason. There could be a lot of ways to approach it. Cut it back one game, two games. Would you just reduce the prices? I'm not sure how that would evolve, but this gives you an opportunity to do that if you chose and still have a revenue stream that would be comparable, which would appeal to the players, as much as they talk about the preseason. They aren't looking to go back in revenue. This might be a way to satisfy everybody."
As for the proposed change in the extra point where it would be kicked from the 25-yard line, Brown doesn't see that passing this week. But he is for making the PAT not automatic and would like to see the narrowing of the goal posts.