When the Cincinnati Bengals' offseason kicked off, one of the more apparent moves that fans felt the team needed to make was to cut Joe Mixon. With a $10 million cap hit to his name and a disappointing 2022 season, it felt like moving on from Mixon was an obvious move for the Bengals this offseason but maybe that's not the case.
When free agency kicked off, there were some big names at the running back spot that we knew the Bengals wouldn't be in on (Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, etc.) but there were other names who could have made sense in Cincinnati. These were guys like Jamaal Williams, Miles Sanders, Devin Singletary, and D'Onta Foreman.
Well, after the first week and a half of free agency has come and gone and the Bengals have not lost Samaje Perine to Denver but also didn't sign any running back in free agency, it feels more and more likely that they're sticking with Mixon in 2023.
Bengals probably aren't parting ways with Joe Mixon
Some fans said ahead of the offseason even kicking off that the Bengals are a team that tends to honor their star players and maybe that's still the case here. I thought maybe with the Bengals needing to extend Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins, and Logan Wilson this offseason while also re-signing key guys and adding other key players that maybe they'd want to free up some cap space to make those things easier.
Now don't get me wrong, the Bengals weren't in cap hell by any stretch of the imagination but keeping Mixon on his current contract seems like a massive mistake. He wasn't as productive last season as he had been in the past. Perhaps the team's strategy is to draft a running back on Day 2 or 3 (unless Bijan Robinson somehow falls to them in the first round) and then roll with Mixon and the draft prospect as the two options.
Maybe the plan is to pair Mixon with Ezekiel Elliott, who has the Bengals as one of three teams he'd like to play for in 2023. If that's the case, Mixon and Elliott together are a decent one-two punch.
Adding Orlando Brown might be a factor in keeping Mixon around too, as he's a talented run-blocker and could help the entire offensive line improve in that department. That obviously helps Mixon.
Maybe Mixon bounces back in 2023 and then no one is thinking about this during the regular season but right now, keeping him feels like a puzzling decision.