Emphatically announcing that Tee Higgins was not available for a trade, Bengals VP of player personnel Duke Tobin was less declarative regarding Joe Mixon‘s future. The seventh-year running back, one of a few 2017 backfield draftees who entered the offseason with an uncertain place on his team’s roster, has a fairly manageable 2023 cap hit ($12.8MM). Mixon, 26, is still unlikely to be with the team too much longer, considering the payments that will need to be made to the offense’s other high-profile players. His deal runs through 2024.
“I’m not gonna predict the offseason because I don’t have the answers. In the words of the great Kevin Malone, ‘I don’t know,’” Tobin said, borrowing a line from one of The Office‘s accounting staffers, when asked about Mixon. “We’ll all see as the offseason goes what we’re able to get done and how the resources are spread around, but Joe’s been a vital part of our team, a successful part, a contributing part. My job is to try to keep as many of those pieces around as I can.”
The Bengals could save more than $7MM by releasing Mixon and just more than $10MM if he is designated as a post-June 1 cut. The team also has the likes of Jessie Bates, Vonn Bell and Germaine Pratt set to hit the market. The Bengals are near the top of the league in cap space, at over $35MM, and after being aggressive in adding outside talent from 2020-22, they plan to restore their offseason focus on attempting to retain their own players. Releasing Mixon would be a way to create more space, but the Bengals would then need help at running back. Backup Samaje Perine is set for free agency, though he could be retained cheaply if the Bengals decided to cut the cord on their longtime starter.
Here is the latest from the running back scene:
- Both Mixon and Dalvin Cook signed extensions just before the 2020 season; Cook’s Vikings pact was for five years, however. Entering Year 3 of that contract, the Vikings are not certain to move forward with their Pro Bowl ball-carrier. While calling Cook a “great player, great leader,” Minnesota GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah (via ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert) joined Tobin in stopping short of guaranteeing the former second-round pick would be back. “In the NFL you have a lot of constraints, salary cap, different things, and we’re trying to figure out how we can operate in those things,” Adofo-Mensah said. The Vikings could save $9MM by designating Cook a post-June 1 cut; the team is currently $24MM over the cap. Cutting the four-time 1,100-yard rusher would obviously come with risk. Going into his age-28 season, Cook has been one of the NFL’s best backs in recent years. Though, he has battled injuries and recently underwent shoulder surgery. Longtime backup Alexander Mattison is also on the cusp of free agency.
- The Dolphins want to keep at least one of their free agent backs — Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson — and NFL.com’s Cameron Wolfe notes the team has discussed the prospect of re-signing both (Twitter links). The ex-49ers cogs fared well in Miami last season, and each should be affordable thanks to a flood of starter-level backs being set for free agency. Mostert, who will turn 31 next month, signed a one-year, $2.1MM Dolphins deal in 2022. Wilson, 27, re-signed with the 49ers on a one-year, $1.1MM accord — one the 49ers traded at the deadline.
- Fellow former 49ers back JaMycal Hasty is staying in Florida, having re-signed with the Jaguars. The Jags gave their backup running back a two-year deal that can max out at $3.2MM, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 tweets. Hasty will return to spell starter Travis Etienne, who has two years remaining on his rookie contract.