The Buffalo Bills run game, or a lack thereof, has been a critical issue for the team’s offense for years. While the Bills may be able to draft a running back like Bijan Robinson in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, it seems more likely that Buffalo prioritizes selecting an offensive lineman, wide receiver, or safety instead.
Being approximately $20 million over the salary cap makes things harder for the Bills to add talent in free agency, but they may be able to capitalize on the Cincinnati Bengals’ need to manage future cash flow issues, which could make Joe Mixon an offseason target.
“Cutting or trading Mixon before June 1 would incur a dead-money hit of $5.5 million but result in almost $7.3 million in cap space,” NFL.com pointed out. “Designating Mixon as a post-June 1 transaction would be more friendly for the Bengals, with a dead-money hit of $2.75 million and salary-cap savings of just over $10 million.”
The Draft Network‘s Joe Melo believes that if Mixon, 26, gets released, Buffalo should consider “poaching” the veteran. They could cover his salary by restructuring some of the big contracts on the books, like that of Stefon Diggs or Josh Allen.
“Mixon’s 2023 cap charge can be lowered by a multi-year contract,” Melo wrote. “As a Super Bowl contender, the Bills should continue borrowing from the future to finance their present. Buffalo could make the figures work if they wanted to. The Bills were eliminated by the Bengals in the division round largely due to their inability to take a balanced approach offensively, managing just 63 total net rushing yards. Meanwhile, Mixon rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown and 20 carries (5.3 yards per carry).
“The Bills have attempted to draft several running backs in the mid-rounds, but they didn’t hit on Devin Singletary or Zack Moss, and the jury remains out on James Cook. Signing Mixon would indicate Beane is taking the running back position seriously.”
However, Buffalo’s possible interest could be hindered by his controversial past, which has come under scrutiny following his most recent incident regarding a misdemeanor aggravated menacing charge. While the arrest warrant was dismissed by the city prosecutor’s office, as they “need additional investigation” before proceeding with the case, the charges could be re-filed at a later date, per CBS News.
Bengals Exec Wouldn’t Commit to Mixon Returning Next Season
While the Bengals currently have over $35 million in salary cap space, superstar quarterback Joe Burrow, along with wide receivers Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase, will become eligible for a contract extension starting on March 15, and based on Duke Tobin’s comments on Tuesday at the NFL Combine, it seems Mixon becoming a cap casualty is not just conjecture.
“Joe has been a vital part of our team,” Tobin said. “He’s been a successful part of our team. Again, I’m not gonna predict the offseason because I don’t have the answers. In the words of the great Kevin Malone (a character from The Office), ‘I don’t know.'”
“We’ll all see as the offseason goes, what we’re able to get done and how the resources are spread around,” Tobin added. “But Joe’s been a vital part of our team, a successful part, a contributing part. And my job is to try to keep as many of those pieces around as we can.”
While Bengals head coach Zac Taylor praised the former second round pick form the 2017 NFL Draft for being “great juice” in the backfield and “a really good weapon for us,” on Tuesday, he also noted the reality of the team’s finances, as Burrow is expected to become one of the highest-paid players in NFL history. “I think it’s really hard to predict what we’re going to do going forward.”
During the 2021 NFL season, Mixon rushed for 1,205 yards and 13 touchdowns, which earned him Pro Bowl honors. In 14 game appearances in 2022, he recorded 814 yards and seven touchdowns. During the postseason, he added another 39 carries for 163 yards and a touchdown.
Sean McDermott Reiterated the Need for Better Run Game
While speaking to reporters at the NFL Combine, Bills head coach Sean McDermott said that while he was happy with the run game toward the end of the season, there’s definitely room for improvement.
“There was also some times when I felt like our quarterback got affected a little bit too early,” McDermott said. “So those are things that we have to continue to adjust and address moving forward.”
Relieving some of the pressure off Josh Allen’s shoulders has to be a priority this offseason. While the Bills could look toward Nyheim Hines having a bigger role alongside Cook if they let Singletary walk in free agency, beefing up the offensive line will also be a huge step in the right direction.