Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon
Kareem Elgazzar, Cincinnati Enquirer

The Cincinnati Bengals head into the 2020 NFL season with a chance to surprise a lot of people on offense. If they want to keep their young core together for years to come, though, they’ll have to meet the recent contract demands set by star Joe Mixon.

Mixon, a second-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, is set to play out the final year of his rookie contract and will be paid $1.2 million this season. After a strong start to his NFL career, the explosive running back is hoping Cincinnati rewards him with a sizable contract extension.

Latest news on Joe Mixon’s contract

The Bengals have made it clear that the organization loves Mixon and views him as a long-term piece of their offense. With the season fast approaching, Cincinnati’s director of player personnel Duke Tobin expressed hope that both sides can reach agreement on a contract extension.

Coming off consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, Mixon knows he deserves a raise from his scheduled $1.2 million salary. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Tyler Dragon, Mixon is hoping for a deal that makes him among the eight highest-paid running backs in the NFL.

Recent contract extensions for Carolina Panthers star Christian McCaffrey and Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry have set higher marks for the position. However, there’s a steep fall after Henry’s deal.

The NFL’s five highest-paid running backs all make at least $10 million annually with Arizona Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake ($8.43 million) coming in sixth. The Bengals could potentially do a longer version of Melvin Gordon’s deal, which is worth $8 million annually.

Joe Mixon’s stats prove he has earned a contract extension

While Mixon hasn’t earned a Pro Bowl selection in his first three seasons, there’s no denying he has the talent of a star. The 24-year-old’s stats already show he is a tremendous weapon on offense and we might only be scratching the surface of his potential.

Mixon struggled early in the 2019 season behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines and without consistent quarterback play. After averaging under 3.5 yards per carry in the first two months without a rushing touchdown, Mixon turned it on in December with 538 rushing yards and four scores.

We saw what Mixon was capable of in 2018, when he averaged 4.9 yards per carry and recorded his first 1,000-yard season. While Mixon is a talented runner, he’s also a threat out of the backfield. Across three seasons, he has hauled in 108 receptions for 870 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

The NFL might be facing a financial hit this year, which will reduce the 2021 salary cap, but the Bengals are in a good position to extend Mixon. Joe Burrow is entering the first year of his rookie contract and Cincinnati is projected to be way under the cap next year.

Now is the time to sign Mixon to an extension and the Bengals would be wise to do it before he takes his game to the next level and drives up his price.