Joe Mixon Contract: Samaje Perine Can Save the Bengals $7.35 Million in 2023

Joe Mixon is part of the Cincinnati Bengals’ three-headed monster on offense — along with quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase — that has made the unit the No. 5 scoring offense in the league in 2022. As good as the offense had been, several factors have combined this season that might make the team re-evaluate the Joe Mixon contract situation this offseason. Between the offensive play-calling, the emergence of backup Samaje Perine, and the Bengals’ salary cap future, this could be the running back’s last season under the current Joe Mixon contract.

The Joe Mixon contract has one year and a team option left

Joe Mixon contract, Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals, Bengals salary cap, Samaje Perine
Joe Mixon | Dylan Buell/Getty Images

California native Joe Mixon went to Oklahoma in 2014 to play college football but ran into controversy when the team suspended him for his entire freshman season. The punishment followed a misdemeanor assault charge stemming from a “physical altercation with a woman,” per Bleacher Report.

Mixon returned to the Sooners in 2015 and played for two years in Norman. In that time, he rushed for 2,027 yards on 300 carries, caught 65 balls for 894 yards, and scored 26 total touchdowns.

While Mixon offered NFL teams first-round talent and production, his suspension gave some teams pause. However, the Bengals felt comfortable selecting him No. 48 overall in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

As a second-round pick, the initial Joe Mixon contract was a four-year, $2.56 million deal.

In his first three NFL seasons, Mixon became one of the top backs in the league, with 3,801 yards from scrimmage and 21 touchdowns. These numbers led the Bengals to offer their star RB a lucrative extension.

The next Joe Mixon contract was a four-year, $48,000,000 deal with $10,000,000 guaranteed and an average annual value of $12,000,000.

In 2022, Mixon has an $8,000,000 base salary, $2,000,000 in prorated signing bonus, a $470,589 roster bonus, a $200,000 workout bonus, and $750,000 from a prior restructuring. That gives the RB an $11,420,589 cap hit with an $8,450,000 dead cap number.

In 2023, Mixon’s base jumps up to $9,400,000 plus bonuses for a $12,850,000 cap hit and a $5,500,000 dead cap value. The following season, the Bengals have a team option for an extra season with a $9,683,205 plus bonuses for a $13,133,205 cap hit and a $2,750,000 dead cap number.

This season, Mixon’s $11.4 million cap hit is third for RBs in the NFL, behind only Ezekiel Elliott ($18.2) and Dalvin Cook ($11.8). His 6.23% of the Bengals salary cap is the seventh-highest in the NFL for his position.  

Do the Bengals need Mixon?

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The Joe Mixon contract makes him one of the highest-paid running backs in the NFL in 2022 and beyond. The question becomes, is Mixon worth it?

Next season, the team could save $7.35 million by cutting or trading Mixon at some point. And between Samaje Perine stepping up, the Bengals’ offensive style, and the Bengals’ salary cap situation, it may make sense to part ways with the back.

Despite now having two excellent running backs, the Bengals run offense is relatively lackluster. The team has 355 rushing attempts this season (22nd in the NFL) for 1,400 yards (26th). The team also rushed the ball just 39.0% of the time, which is 23rd in the league, per Football Database.

And Mixon’s backup (and fellow former Sooner) Samaje Perine has been good filling in for him this season. In the two games Mixon missed with a concussion this season, Perine had 38 carries for 164 yards and a touchdown.

Additionally, having one of the highest-paid running backs in the league is a luxury the Bengals won’t be able to afford soon. The team just gave Trey Hendrickson and D.J. Reader big extensions, and Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Logan Wilson are all in line for their own big-money deals soon, too.

With all these contracts coming up, the Bengals salary cap likely won’t be able to handle the last few seasons of the current Joe Mixon contract. So, he’ll either have to restructure with a team-friendly deal or find a new team.