It was a tough pill to swallow for Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow on Sunday. Burrow will unfortunately not be returning to the Super Bowl this year, despite an incredible late-season run.
That said, the path will be tougher next season to return to the Conference Championship.
Right now, Burrow is in the conversation of the top three quarterbacks in the NFL. Unfortunately, he can't win alone, as shown by their loss against the Kansas City Chiefs. Nonetheless, he's the perfect blend of accuracy, swagger, and leadership that teams in the league drool over.
Be that as it may, the rest of the Bengals could be going through some changes this offseason. He might not be going anywhere anytime soon, but the rest of the team is another question.
What will it take for Joe Burrow and the Bengals to get back to the Conference Championship?
The biggest hurdle for Burrow and the Bengals will be the state of their own free agents. The organization has done a remarkable job drafting top-tier talent over the last few years. The losses that Cincinnati endured were worth it as they allowed them to draft Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and many others. Still, a team can rarely keep all its stars, and the Bengals are no different.
First, they need to secure Burrow. According to Over The Cap, in 2021, the Buffalo Bills signed Josh Allen for upwards of $258 million. Burrow's deal will be in the same neighborhood. The Bengals can obviously afford it, and in order to get back to the Super Bowl, they must.
On offense, the Bengals could lose tight end Hayden Hurst, wide receiver Trent Taylor, and guard Max Scharping. More pivotal losses could come on the defensive side of the ball this offseason. That might very well impede Joe Burrow's chances of getting back to the Conference Championship.
Eli Apple, Tre Flowers, Jessie Bates III, Joe Bachie, Clay Johnston, and Vonn Bell, among others, make up a long list of potential defensive free agents. Defense wins championships, and the Bengals' window of opportunity to get past the Chiefs might be closing.
While another strong defensive draft class will help, if the Bengals' defense loses too many contributors, Joe Burrow and company will take a step back in 2023.