CINCINNATI — The Bengals are hoping to reach a long-term extension with running back Joe Mixon during training camp.
They've made their intentions clear throughout the offseason and Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin doubled down on that sentiment Monday.
"Joe’s an important part of our team, a piece that we’d like to get extended and have around here a long time," Tobin said. "Joe’s been a great player for us. We want him around here. We know what he is. He came in and earned it. I think he came in under somewhat some tough circumstances and he’s showed everybody that he was the player and the person we believed he is and would become. He’s a guy that we’re proud of."
Mixon, 24, has topped the 1,100-yard rushing mark in each of the past two seasons. The Bengals viewed him as an elite talent when they took him the the second-round (48th overall) in the 2017 NFL Draft. They're optimistic that a deal could get done in the next few weeks, despite uncertainty surrounding the future of the salary cap due to COVID-19.
"Typically, our extensions have gotten done during camp at some point," Tobin said. "There are challenges as you alluded to, with some uncertainty with the cap this year, next year and even the year after and how to structure something that’s agreeable to both sides. So there are challenges that we’ll be working through. Hopefully we’re able to come to an agreement. Time will tell on that. But it’s something that we’re certainly cognizant of and want to address."
They signed defensive tackle Geno Atkins to a four-year, $65.3 million deal on Aug. 28, 2018. Later that day they agreed to a three-year, $45 million extension with Carlos Dunlap.
There are some that believe the Bengals should play it out with Mixon this season and either sign him, another veteran or even draft his replacement next offseason.
The 2021 free agent class could be loaded with talented running backs, including Alvin Kamara, Aaron Jones, Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette and Todd Gurley. There should be plenty of great backs in the draft as well, led by Clemson's Travis Etienne.
The Bengals aren't focused on what could be available next offseason. They're hoping to keep their guy around long-term.
"You always take the bird in the hand," Tobin said. "Regardless of what’s in the in draft next year or what’s in free agent, we know that Joe’s a piece that we want. We’ll work to see if that can come together."