NFL Rumors: Cincinnati Bengals and Star Running Back at Odds Over Contract

It appears no running back is safe in the NFL. According to the Athletic's Paul Dehner Jr., the Cincinnati Bengals are looking to reduce 2021 Pro Bowler Joe Mixon's contract so that it's more in line with the current running back market and could part ways with him if he doesn't cooperate. Mixon is in the third year of a four-year, $48 million extension and is set to earn $10 million this season in new money while counting nearly $12.8 million against the cap. His contract ranks fifth in the league in annual average at running back.

Mixon is only 26 years old and coming off a reasonably effective season (1255 yards from scrimmage, 4.6 yards per touch), but teams around the NFL simply don't value running backs like they used to. The Minnesota Vikings released Dalvin Cook after a fourth consecutive Pro Bowl season earlier this month primarily due to a $14.1 million cap hit; Cook was more productive (1468 yards from scrimmage) and efficient (4.8 yards per touch) than Mixon in 2022.

Given the state of affairs in the NFL, Mixon is a prime candidate for a cut: the Bengals can save more than $10 million against the cap by releasing him. That being said, the fact that he remains on the team this deep into the offseason clearly indicates the Bengals still value him.

It's a harsh, cruel market for free-agent running backs; Mixon should want no part of it. Leveraging his relationship and good standing with the Bengals should land him his best available deal. That could mean giving up a little bit of the salary he expected to make this year.

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