After the Bengals refused to trade the first pick in the 2020 draft to the Dolphins, we speculated that, in time, the specific details of the offer would be leaked — either because Joe Burrow failed and the Dolphins wanted to brag or because Burrow became a star, and the Bengals wanted to brag.
Burrow has become a star. And the Bengals apparently are doing some bragging. (Unless, in reality, the Dolphins are doing some lamenting.)
But it’s still not entirely clear what the Dolphins would have offered. Apparently because the Bengals never wanted to fine out.
Via Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, the Dolphins were willing to send to Cincinnati all three of their 2020 first-round picks, “and potentially more.” The “more” never became known, because the Bengals declined to listen.
The Dolphins, of course, wouldn’t have had to try to give up so much to get Burrow if they’d heeded the not-so-subtly expressed desire of owner Stephen Ross to tank in 2019. Although the initial objective of the owner’s desire was Tua Tagovailoa, Ross became enamored with Burrow as the draft approached. Ross, as we reported numerous times at the time, wanted Burrow. Badly.
As recently speculated, the failure of coach Brian Flores to implement the tank mandate may have become the first break in the relationship between head coach and owner.
And so Ross, as Adam Schefter of ESPN reported at the time, made multiple attempts to trade up. The Bengals consistently declined. As the new report from NFL Media reconfirms.
We eventually put it this way, on the morning of the first day of the 2020 draft. Ross needed to make a call directly to Bengals owner Mike Brown. Ross needed to put all cards on the table. He needed to make Brown an offer he couldn’t refuse, and Ross needed to force Brown to refuse it.
Based on Rapoport’s report, Ross never fired his shot. Ross should have. And Brown should have wanted to know what Ross would have offered.
At the time, no one knew what Burrow would become. It’s one thing to have three first-round picks and more offered for an established player, like Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers. It’s quite another to get that kind of potential haul of unscratched lottery tickets for a single unscratched lottery ticket.
In hindsight, it definitely worked out for the Bengals. But they took a major risk by refusing to learn what the Dolphins would have offered in addition to the fifth pick in the 2020 draft. No player is a sure thing, especially not after suffering a serious knee injury in November of his rookie year.
Indeed, if the Bengals had accepted Miami’s best offer and taken Justin Herbert with the fifth overall pick, maybe they’d still be waking up today with a chance for their first Super Bowl berth since Tom Brady was 11 years old.