Joe Burrow doesn't even have to roll out the cookies and crackers for prospective free agents now that March is here: just being around for a while is enough to keep some guys already here in Paycor Stadium-- just take linebacker Germaine Pratt Tuesday after he signed his three-year, $21 million contract.
"I've got a top five quarterback in the league. Why leave?" Pratt asked. "It's huge for you to be around a quarterback that can lead us. (Burrow) led me from dark days. The first two years was terrible without Joe. He gave that bright light in the tunnel, so I want to ride this wave as long as I can."
Burrow is eligible to sign an extension this year and he has made it clear he wants to stay with the Bengals.
"I don't really worry about that too much," Pratt said. "I know that he wants to be here, his guys want to be here, I just knew that if Joe Burrow (is going to) be around for a lot of years, then I need to be around to win.
"The guys are always talking about how they want to be around a quarterback, they want to win. You see Davante Adams wanting his A-Rod to come to Las Vegas for him to win."
CULTURE CLUB: A couple of weeks ago Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo called the potential departure of both starting safeties in free agency "a dark day." The first day after Jessie Bates III (Atlanta) and Vonn Bell (Carolina) made it a reality, Anarumo looked ahead.
"It's always the darkest before the dawn, so here we go," Anarumo said. "We'll figure it all out. Sad for us, but those guys it worked out for both of them in their careers. They were great for us and wish them nothing but the best."
Anarumo admitted it's a blow, but he also stressed its life in the league.
"I'm still walking by their lockers and be like, you take a minute you digest it and then you realize, okay, this is the reality of it," Anarumo said. "And we all have to move on. That's just how it is. And so yeah, I think we'll make the right decisions and move on to next year."
Bell and Bates were terrific influencers in the locker room as well as in the secondary room, where Bell would call weekly players-only meetings. But when Anarumo looks at veterans like cornerbacks Mike Hilton and Chidobe Awuzie and safety Michael Thomas, a special teamer who has signed up for an 11th season, he sees the culture intact.
"You want a guy in there? Well, you know, Chido is in there, and Mike Hilton," Anarumo said. "So I don't know that anything would slip by those two, to start, and then you put Mike (Thomas) in there. That's the beauty of it and I think we'll be fine there.
"I don't see anything slipping in there, (with) the two Mikes and Chido. They're not going to let anything slip. Trust me."
NEXT STEP: Moving beyond Bates and Bell means last year's first-rounder, Dax Hill, is starting. Although he has just 131 scrimmage snaps under his belt, Pratt says (Dax Hill) will be heard from.
"He'll be a huge addition for us this year. I know he'll make an immediate impact," Pratt said. "He's a versatile guy that has all the tangibles to be great. It's up to him to fill the role of Jessie Bates or Vonn, whatever role he has is up to him. He's a guy that sat back and got to learn. I didn't get to do that my rookie year, get to learn from veteran guys and show the way how to be a great talent in the league. So it'd be huge for him to take some little pieces of their game and apply it to his."
Bates was listed as a free safety and Bell a strong safety. Hill is probably considered closer to a free. Anarumo's Staten Island Stew scheme of flexibility doesn't like dividing safeties as centerfielders and box safeties. (Anarumo) interchanged Bates and Bell, and Hill's top trait is versatility. Anarumo points out that 66 of Hill's rookie snaps came from replacing an injured Mike Hilton in the 34-23 conquest of Tom Brady in Tampa Bay.
Anarumo also indicated that finding a veteran on the market to pair with Hill is in the mix and that the guy is going to have to be versatile.
"I don't get caught up too much in that there's going be roles that they're better at," Anarumo said. "Jessie did a little bit more deep, but there was a lot of ton of split safety stuff, too. Whoever we ended up getting, we'll be able to do both. They may be a little bit better at one or the other, but we'll make sure that they can do a number of things."
PERINE TO DENVER: According to reports, Bengals backup running back Samaje Perine agreed with the Broncos on Tuesday. Like Bates and Bell, Perine had some of his finest moments in the biggest games. After turning around the 2021 AFC title game with a 41-yard catch-and-run touchdown at the end of the first half, he came back last season in the regular-season win over the Chiefs with 106 yards in place of an injured Joe Mixon.