Many are already predicting the Cincinnati Bengals to reach the Super Bowl next season, but can they do it without this star player?
One errant shove is all it took to end the Cincinnati Bengals’ 2022 postseason, and the young and hungry Super Bowl contender will be looking for redemption this upcoming campaign.
In the competitive AFC North, fellow rivals the Baltimore Ravens have attracted more rumors and speculation due to the heated Lamar Jackson contract saga. The Bengals are not without their own contract issues, though, and they could make a daring choice to cut star running back Joe Mixon to save cap space in 2023.
Per Spotrac, Mixon’s cap hit next season is roughly $12.8 million, and the team can save around $7 million in cap space if Mixon gets cut before June 1.
The 27-year-old running back made a splash in his first few seasons in Cincinnati, proving himself as an efficient and reliable ball-carrier and giving the Bengals a strong rushing attack to complement Joe Burrow’s passing prowess.
Now that he’s entering his final years of his contract, however, Mixon’s performance has been under much more scrutiny, especially since Mixon appears to have declined in efficiency in the last two seasons.
Bengals should think about moving on from RB Joe Mixon this offseason
In 2021 and 2022, Mixon’s rushing success rate was 37 percent and 38.6 percent respectively, a small but noticeable drop from the league average and an ominous sign for Mixon’s future performance.
As any sensible team would do, the Bengals would want to get themselves out of an aging running back’s contract sooner rather than later. The sixth year back has recorded three 1,000-plus rushing yard seasons during his tenure in Cincinnati, yet at his price point and given the plentiful running back market, the team would be better off re-signing backup Samaje Perine to a cheaper deal and probably drafting a mid-round back this April.
Compared to other cut candidates like Trey Hendrickson, Chidobe Awuzie, and Tyler Boyd, Mixon is arguably one of the most expendable names on the list, and his age and declining efficiency make him all the more vulnerable to being released this offseason.
Back when the Bengals signed Mixon to a four-year, $48 million deal in 2020, the front office structured the deal so that if the team wanted, it could offload Mixon two years early and opt for younger, more sustainable options at the position.
The $7 million in freed cap space that comes from Mixon’s release isn’t a whole lot, but it’s not chump change either — and with a Joe Burrow extension looming around the corner, the Bengals franchise will need every extra cent it can get.
Heading into 2023, the Bengals still boast a relatively young offensive nucleus that should take the team far, a nucleus that includes the likes of Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins in the blueprint of the team’s future success. Not Joe Mixon.