Bengals could move on from Mixon

Credit: Charlie Riedel

Credit: Charlie Riedel

INDIANAPOLIS — If the Cincinnati Bengals plan to keep running back Joe Mixon, they didn’t express that with confidence Tuesday in interviews at the NFL Scouting Combine.

It sounded more like a real possibility the Bengals could release Mixon this offseason. Doing so could free up at least $7.2 million in cap space and even more if done after June 1.

Mixon has two years remaining on his contract, worth $20.4 million, none of which is guaranteed or paid out as an early bonus. He is due to count nearly $12.8 million against the salary cap in 2023 and is coming off a season in which he averaged his fewest rushing yards per game (58.1) since splitting backfield duties during his rookie year.

“Joe has been a vital part of our team,” Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin said. “He’s been a successful part of our team. I’m not going to predict the offseason because I don’t have the answers. You know, in the words of the great (The Office character) Kevin Malone, I don’t know. We’ll all see as the offseason goes and what we’re able to get done and how the resources are spread around. But Joe has been a vital part of our team, a successful part, a contributing part. And my job is to try to keep as many of those pieces around as we can.”

Asked what the justification for holding onto Mixon would be, considering how much his contract costs, Tobin noted Mixon has been a key component to the team but maintained he can’t predict what the offseason will bring.

Tobin indicated it’s also possible the Bengals could try to re-negotiate Mixon’s contract.

“I can’t predict what other deals will get done or how much money we’ll need,” Tobin said. “There might be a chance to re-negotiate some people on our team, there might be a chance to extend some people on our team. Again, there’s a lot of moving pieces to this. I think the blanket statement I can make is when you have a good player who is productive you do what you can to keep them on your football team. That’s what we’ll do, we’ll see how the offseason plays out, I just can’t predict it as it stands right now.”

Mixon scored nine touchdowns this season, but five came in one game against the Panthers, and it’s no secret the Bengals could benefit from a feature back that is better in the passing game. Cincinnati used Samaje Perine in third down situations because he was a more capable blocker but also a capable pass catcher. He was strong enough in the running game to be effective as well.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor still offered praise for what Mixon provided.

“I think he’s given us great juice,” Taylor said. “He’s been a really good weapon for us and voted a captain this year by the team. He’s been a consistent guy for us and for me and really enjoy being around him.”

Mixon recently faced a misdemeanor aggravated menacing charge for allegedly pointing a firearm at a woman. owever, that charge was dropped because the city prosecutor said there needs to be an additional investigation before moving forward with reintroducing the charge.

Asked if Mixon could face any disciplinary action from the team or league, Tobin said he didn’t have any update on that.

Whether the charges are brought up again or not, the Bengals would have needed to consider moving on from Mixon just because of the possible savings. Perine is heading into free agency but would be a cheaper option, and there also could be other running backs that become available this offseason. The draft also is a place to add depth.

“I think it’s really hard to predict what we’re going to do going forward, but I’ve been really happy with that room,” Taylor said when asked about Perine. “I think that those guys have really complemented each other really well going back to Oklahoma — they’ve been together for so long. Samaje’s just one of those veterans that everybody loves because you can trust him. Whether it’s been special teams, or it’s been third down, or whether it’s been carrying the load on first and second down in some of the games Joe was out, Samaje has just been a consistent force for us.”

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