What The Ezekiel Elliott Deal Means For the Bengals
By Alec Hare
Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys finally got a long term deal done. What might it mean for Joe Mixon and the Cincinnati Bengals?
In the last several seasons, we’ve seen Le’Veon Bell threaten to hold out before finally sitting out the entire 2018 NFL season. After being franchised tagged for the third straight season, the insecurity of his future financial earnings was enough to keep Bell from risking injury.
This summer, Bell signed a four year $52.5 million ($35 million guaranteed) contract with the Jets. Melvin Gordon is currently in the last year of his contract and set to make over $5 million this year. Gordon is holding out and hopes to sign a long term deal. The Chargers have given Gordon permission to seek a trade.
In both cases, Bell and Gordon didn’t want to risk their teams overworking them with the intent to let them walk in free agency at the end of their contracts. The deal that Ezekial Elliot just swung not only made him the highest paid running back in football, but it was an unprecedented situation for a running back.
With two years left on his rookie deal, Elliott was holding out for a better contract. With the announcement that came on Wednesday, that he signed a six year, $90 million contract extension, Elliott was actually able to leverage his situation with the Cowboys into a mega extension. The Bengals could face a similar situation with Joe Mixon next offseason.
Mixon will have one year left on his rookie deal for a little over $1 million. Another big year from Mixon, who finished as the leading rusher in the AFC last season, and he could well be looking for long term security and/or a pay raise by a potential holdout.
Mixon is currently 23, almost exactly one year younger than Elliott. With the success of this holdout, Mixon could look at holding out as an option next offseason as leverage for a contract extension that would make him one of the top paid running backs in the league.
If Mixon elects to holdout after this season, it would create a complex situation. A 76 year old Jerry Jones was willing to pay his bell cow top positional money to get him back for Week 1. However, Mike Brown would likely not have that kind of urgency in getting a contract extension done for Mixon. Fair or not, Brown has built a reputation on being frugal.
In Brown’s defense, in recent years, he was willing to sign to A.J. Green, Andy Dalton, Carlos Dunlap, and Geno Atkins to big extensions. This situation would be entirely different.
The last holdout for Cincinnati was rookie Andre Smith in the lead up to the 2009 season. That lasted a month of the preseason. The Mixon situation is much different and one that would likely require Brown to agree to pay Mixon top five running back money.
With several injuries in his first two seasons, Mixon could be motivated to holdout for bigger money. He is set to have a huge workload this season. That could complicate things if he finishes as a top tier rusher this season.
Recent contract extensions from Todd Gurley and David Johnson have been viewed as mistakes in hindsight on the guaranteed money. Last season after an incredible start, Gurley was hindered by a knee injury and was out produced by C.J. Anderson who was signed in the middle of the season. A hot topic in the league today is the value of a running back. Would the Bengals even entertain the idea of paying Mixon?
The Elliott deal was unprecedented and will create a ripple effect around the league. Gone are the days where older running backs threatened a holdout to cash in one more time on big money.
Now, running backs don’t have to be in their late 20’s, if they feel their worth more and want financial security or a raise, they will hold out. Moreover, they may just have a case and Elliott validated that.