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How much guaranteed money would be included in a Joe Mixon extension?

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Mixon won’t be accepting any discounts this offseason. Will the Bengals ultimately cave in negotiations?

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Oakland Raiders Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

A.J. Green isn’t the only star player the Cincinnati Bengals want to sign to a new contract this offseason.

Before the 2020 season begins in September, the front office will want to have Joe Mixon under contract for the foreseeable future. The process of actually accomplishing this, however, may be easier said than done.

Mixon will have aspirations in becoming one of the highest paid running backs in the NFL. It’s not just about the total money you see next to the length of the contract; it’s the actual cash at signing and guaranteed money that counts, and want Mixon and his agent will be after.

How much will the Bengals be willing to offer in real money? Ben Baby of ESPN’s bold prediction for the Bengals’ offseason is Mixon getting a contract extension with $45 million in guaranteed money attached to it.

Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Mixon will get $45 million guaranteed in a contract extension.

Mixon, who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons, has been one of the NFL’s most productive running backs and is looking to be compensated accordingly. The Bengals have historically been willing to re-sign their top guys and that shouldn’t change with the 23-year-old Mixon, who will be a building block for the Bengals’ rebuilding process. — Ben Baby

The combined guaranteed money in Andy Dalton and A.J. Green’s second contracts was $49,750,000. The $32,750,000 Green received in guaranteed money back in 2015 has been by far the highest figure the Bengals have given to a player in that regard since. Even Carson Palmer only got $24 million in practical guarantees.

For Mixon to get this level of real contract money from a franchise that simply doesn’t give out this kind of dough would indeed be bold. The Bengals may very well see Mixon in their future plans, but are they willing to sacrifice their principles and cave in this fashion?

The biggest gripe with all of this is the position Mixon plays. Running backs, not the running game itself, have been greatly devalued in recent years and giving one single back this much money has shown to be a risky venture. The Los Angeles Rams gave Todd Gurley exactly $45 million in guaranteed money two years ago and now they’re unsure about his future with the team. The Arizona Cardinals gave David Johnson $31 million in guaranteed money in the same offseason. Have they received the return on investment they’ve wanted? Nope.

Guaranteed money is why the Bengals aren’t as active in free agency. It’s why they let players like Marvin Jones, Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler leave for other teams. If a deal like Baby predicts is offered to Mixon, the perception of how the Bengals operate could transform entirely.