‘Ice in His Veins’: Burrow Could Be In Line For MVP-Caliber Season

Joe Burrow

Getty Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.

The Cincinnati Bengals were behind the 8-ball for the entirety of the 2023 season — essentially from the moment franchise quarterback Joe Burrow strained his calf in training camp to when he finally suffered a season-ending wrist injury in Week 11.

Without Burrow for the final 7 games of the regular season, the Bengals struggled down the stretch and missed the playoffs after making the AFC Championship Game the previous two seasons.

Now healthy following surgery, Burrow’s injury did little to dampen the esteem in which he’s held in NFL circles and PFF’s Trevor Sikkema put him at No. 3 in his ranking of all 32 NFL quarterbacks headed into 2024, behind just Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, a pair of two-time NFL MVPs.

“Burrow, unfortunately, had an injury-riddled 2023, starting with a calf strain that it appeared he was rushed back from to start the season,” Sikkema wrote. “He then suffered a torn ligament in his wrist on his throwing hand that ended his season. But I won’t let an injury-affected season take away from what we have seen from Burrow when he is fully healthy: an ice-in-his-veins decision-maker with assassin-like accuracy and MVP-caliber play.”

Burrow’s NFL Career Full of Stops and Starts

After the Bengals selected Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft out of LSU, he was on track for a stellar rookie season when he tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in Week 11.

Burrow returned in 2021 to win NFL Comeback Player of the Year and lead the Bengals to the Super Bowl with an upset of the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. Burrow made his first Pro Bowl in 2022 after leading the Bengals to a 12-4 regular-season record and came one late hit penalty from possibly beating the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game for the second consecutive season.

Then, in 2023, another season-ending injury.

Through their first four seasons as starters, both Jackson and Mahomes had won their first NFL MVP awards, made at least one NFL All-Pro Team and multiple Pro Bowls — four for Mahomes and three for Jackson.

Burrow finished fourth in NFL MVP voting in 2022.

Record-Setting Contract Lifts Expectations in Cincy

You didn’t need to be a salary cap expert to know Burrow would break the bank when the Bengals eventually had to sign him to a contract extension. The numbers didn’t disappoint — he signed a 4-year, $275 million contract extension in Sept. 2023 that made him the highest-paid player in terms of annual salary ($55 million) in NFL history.

Almost one year later, he’s now in what seems like a “prove it” year and is lumped in with a group of elite NFL quarterbacks returning from season-ending injuries in 2023, alongside four-time MVP and New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Kirk Cousins — both players are coming off tearing their Achilles tendons.

“A consistent element of Burrow’s game has been highly productive passes while not putting the ball in harm’s way,” wrote PFF’s Brandon Locker. “In 2023, Burrow was one of two gunslingers (minimum 400 dropbacks) to have a big-time throw rate of at least 4.4% and also a turnover-worthy play rate of 2.1% or lower. It’s a feat he has accomplished in each of the past three seasons. With the former No. 1 overall pick back under center, the Bengals should vie for not only their division lead but possibly even the AFC.”

Read More