The Cincinnati Bengals want to keep Joe Mixon around for the long haul.
With the running back set to enter the final year of his rookie contract, Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin noted that he's gotten several big-time contracts done this time of year.
"Joe (Mixon) is an important part of our team. He's a piece that we'd like to get extended and have around here a long time. Typically, our extensions have gotten done during camp at some point," Tobin said on Monday, via the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The Bengals have inked receiver Tyler Boyd (2019), defensive tackle Geno Atkins, defensive end Carlos Dunlap (2018) and star wideout A.J. Green (2015) in recent seasons to big deals after training camp started.
Mixon is set to make $1.208 million in the final year of his rookie contract. His backup, Giovani Bernard, is slated to make $3.7 million in base salary. Bernard's $5.1 million-per-year average on the two-year extension signed last season ranks 13th among all running backs, per Over The Cap. Mixon is currently the 47th highest-paid RB.
The 24-year-old Mixon is coming off back-to-back 1,100-plus-yard rushing seasons, and is the motor of the Bengals' ground game. He owns the ability to make players miss in space and speed past defensive backs. Criminally underutilized in the passing game, Mixon also has the skill to be a threat through the air even if he's never cleared 300 yards receiving in a season.
"Joe's been a great player for us. We want him around here. We know what he is. He came in and earned it," Tobin said of Mixon. "He's a guy that we're proud of. Regardless of what's in the draft next year or what's in free agency, we know that Joe's a piece that we want. We'll work to see if that can come together."
The biggest question both sides must answer is, what figure is each comfortable settling at?
Is Mixon determined to get Christian McCaffrey ($16 million per year) or Ezekiel Elliott-type money ($15 million per)? Or would the second-round pick settle closer to Derrick Henry ($12.5 million per) money or even Melvin Gordon cash ($8 million per year)?
Are the Bengals willing to spend money on the running back position even as it's devalued throughout the league? Is Mixon, who should help carry Joe Burrow through his rookie campaign, one of the few backs who is worth splurging for?
"There are challenges that we will be working through and hopefully we will be able to come to an agreement. Time will tell on that," Tobin said. "But it's something we are certainly cognizant of and want to address."
If the sides don't agree this year, the franchise tag could be used by the Bengals to ensure the RB is around for at least another season.