The AFC North is in an interesting position right now, with three teams touting shiny new toys at the quarterback position—or at least relatively so—and then there is the Pittsburgh Steelers, who at least for the time being continue to hold on to Ben Roethlisberger, who is soon to turn 39 years old having completed his 17th season in the NFL, more than couple the combined experience of the other three.
The newest addition to the AFC North at the start position is Joe Burrow, the first-overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. While they didn’t win a lot of games, he showed his pedigree as a rookie before suffering a knee injury that sidelined him for the rest of the year. Assuming he comes back healthy, he is going to be a problem.
One of the problems with having great young quarterbacks, of course, is that you’re going to have to pay them to keep them. The Bengals don’t have to worry about that just yet. But the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens are on the doorstep of having decisions to make about Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson, respectively.
Both of them, having completed their third seasons, are due to have their fifth-year options picked up. It remains to be seen whether or not either franchise will actually work to complete long-term contracts with them this offseason, or if they will put it off until next year. But Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin knows it’s coming.
“That’s been life for us for over a decade”, he said during his post-season press conference when discussing the issues of chasing teams with franchise quarterbacks who are on rookie deals while being anchored down by their contract for Roethlisberger.
“Those guys are on rookie deals that teams are benefiting from that. I would imagine that they are in the process of earning deals and they will be in a similar circumstance that we are in and that’s why they are still in the tournament”, he added.
“Those are things that are part of our business. I know when you have a quality quarterback and a guy that is capable of having you in that field, that’s just the cost of doing business and I’m sure they’re okay with doing that”.
Both Mayfield and Jackson still have a lot to prove, even if they were able to secure their first postseason victories earlier this year. but that’s not exactly uncommon for quarterbacks to need a bit more polish at this age. Not a lot of them are like Patrick Mahomes, who has been the best quarterback in the league pretty much since he stepped into the starting lineup.