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Cincinnati Bengals insider: Joe Mixon, La’el Collins potential 2023 cap casualties

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals are among the leaders in NFL salary cap space this offseason, but the franchise might still face some difficult decisions regarding its roster.

While Cincinnati boasts one of the most talented teams in football, many of its best players are all set to land new contracts. Cincinnati must make crucial decisions on safety Jessie Bates this offseason and that’s just the start of their potential offseason spending.

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Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins are eligible for contract extensions, with both young stars poised to become some of the highest-paid NFL players. There’s additional long-term spending that must be accounted for in the budget, with All-Pro wideout Ja’Marr Chase seeking a massive contract extension before long.

For a franchise that has operated with a smaller budget than a majority of NFL teams, spending less on scouting and not building an indoor practice facility until recently, there’s only so much money to go around.

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As a result, the franchise faces some challenging decisions this offseason that could push at least one starter off the roster or possibly even more.

Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic covered the Bengals’ offseason in-depth, examining potential cap casualties and even extensions for Burrow and Higgins. In that series, he highlighted Joe Mixon and La’el Collins as two of the likeliest high-profile cut candidates on the roster.

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Why the Cincinnati Bengals might cut La’el Collins, Joe Mixon

Syndication: The Enquirer

Collins is the more obvious cap casualty. After being released by the Dallas Cowboys last offseason, Cincinnati signed the right tackle to a three-year, $21 million contract. Brought in to fortify the offensive line, Collins didn’t meet expectations.

The 29-year-old offensive tackle allowed 34 pressures with five sacks and drew eight penalties, per Pro Football Focus. He received one of PFF’s lowest pass-blocking grades among all starting offensive tackles, before tearing his ACL and MCL in December. However, it’s not the only problem.

“He also needed to be managed through the year and didn’t practice on Wednesdays. Missing practices rarely sits well with this staff. Considering the age and injury history, signs point to the Bengals considering moving on from Collins.”

Paul Dehner Jr. on Cincinnati Bengals right tackle La’el Collins

Cincinnati would create $6.05 million in cap space this offseason if it designates Collins as a pre-June 1 release. If the franchise makes him a post-June 1 cut, it provides the Bengals with $7.7 million in cap room.

Mixon is a more challenging evaluation. A Pro Bowl selection in 2021, the 26-year-old has shown flashes of being a great running back. However, he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry this past season and his ypc average over the last three seasons (3.9) highlights his inconsistency.

  • Joe Mixon stats (2022): 814 rushing yards, 47 first downs, 441 receiving yards

The 2023 NFL Draft class is deep at running back, which benefits Cincinnati. It could re-sign Samaje Perine, who averaged 4.4 ypc over the last three seasons, and pair him with a running back selected on Day 2 of the NFL Draft.

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As for Mixon, designating him as a pre-June 1 cut creates nearly $7.3 million in cap space. Pair that with parting ways with Collins and Cincinnati gains an additional $13 million to spend on Bates, Burrow or Higgins.

While the NFL salary cap is increasing dramatically this offseason and in the years to come, rising salaries for emerging stars will force difficult moves. As a result, the Bengals could join many around the league by cutting ties with key starters.

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