Duke Tobin made it very clear during his press conference Monday afternoon that extending Joe Mixon’s contract is a priority for the Cincinnati Bengals. The team’s director of player personnel verified this by saying he values the person and player Mixon is more than the position he plays.
The deal Mixon receives has been a bit tricky to project this offseason; new deals for Christian McCaffrey of the Panthers and Derrick Henry of the Titans has injected the running back market with some vibrance. McCaffrey completely reset the running back market seemingly out of nowhere, while Henry took a more modest deal in comparison.
According to Tyler Dragon of The Cincinnati Enquirer, Mixon isn’t determined to reset the market, but to sign a contract that puts him inside the top 10 in terms of average annual value.
Sources told The Enquirer, Mixon hopes to receive an extension that places him amongst the top eight highest-paid running backs in the league, which puts him north of $8 million a year. Carolina Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey signed an extension this offseason making him the highest-paid running back in NFL history. He’ll average an annual salary of $16 million. New York Giants’ Saquon Barkley currently has the eighth-richest contract among running backs. Barkley’s average salary is $7.7 million a year.
The top seven running back deals by AAV all belong to veterans on their second contracts. The Arizona Cardinals placed the transition tag on Kenyan Drake, so he’s the only one of the seven that isn’t under contract for more than one year.
As Dragon mentions, McCaffrey is now making $16 million on average per year as the leader of the running back market, and Henry’s new deal puts his AAV at $12.5 million. There are three running backs—Ezekiel Elliott, Le’Veon Bell, and David Johnson—who’s AAV lies between McCaffrey’s and Henry’s. After Henry, there’s a drop off to Drake at $8.483 million and Melvin Gordon at $8 million.
That $8 million mark is the threshold Mixon apparently wants to eclipse. Considering he isn’t as accomplished as Henry or the running backs ahead of Henry on the AAV list, he’s likely looking at anywhere between the $8 million minimum to about $12 million. For the Bengals to offer him anything more, they would be making an already precarious investment even riskier.
When—not if—the extension for Mixon is announced, expect the financials to be in that $8-12 million per year range.