The Cincinnati Bengals are among the leaders in NFL salary cap space this offseason, but the franchise could still face some tough decisions regarding the roster.
While Cincinnati boasts one of the most talented teams in football, many of its top players are set for new contracts. Cincinnati will have to make crucial decisions about safety Jessie Bates this offseason, and that’s just the start of their potential offseason spending spree.
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Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins are eligible for contract extensions, with both young stars poised to become some of the NFL’s highest-paid players. There are additional long-term expenses that must be factored into the budget, with All-Pro wideout Ja’Marr Chase seeking a massive contract extension before long.
For a franchise that has operated on a smaller budget than a majority of NFL teams, spent less on scouting and didn’t build 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 loss injuries and even extensions for Burrow and Higgins. In that series, he highlighted Joe Mixon and La’el Collins as two of the most likely high-profile cut candidates on the roster.
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Why Cincinnati Bengals May Cut La’el Collins, Joe Mixon
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 shore up the offensive line, Collins did not live up to expectations.
The 29-year-old offensive tackle allowed 34 pressures with five sacks and drew eight penalties, per Pro Football Focus. He earned one of PFF’s lowest pass-blocking grades among all starting offensive tackles before tearing his ACL and MCL in December. However, that is not the only problem.
“He also needed to be managed throughout the year and did not train on Wednesdays. Lack of practice rarely sits well with this staff. Considering his 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 release before June 1. If the franchise makes him a cut after June 1, that gives the Bengals $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 back. However, he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry this past season, and his ypc average over the past 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 past 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. Combine that with parting ways with Collins and Cincinnati has another $13 million to spend on Bates, Burrow or Higgins.
While the NFL salary cap increases dramatically this offseason and for years to come, rising salaries for emerging stars will force difficult moves. As a result, the Bengals could join many around the league in cutting ties with key starters.