The Cincinnati Bengals, owners of the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft, have more than just the upcoming draft to worry about.
The Bengals are preparing for a holdout if the team cannot come to terms on an extension for running back Joe Mixon, according to Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic. Mixon, a 2017 second-round pick who has amassed 2,888 total yards and 17 touchdowns over the past two seasons, is entering the final year of his rookie contract.
Cincinnati would reportedly like to extend Mixon's contract as long as he is not expecting a similar extension to the one Christian McCaffrey recently signed with the Panthers. If Mixon is expecting a similar deal, the Bengals will begin looking for his replacement, and will likely spend one of their draft picks on a running back.
McCaffrey, a fellow member of the 2017 draft class, signed Saints running back Alvin Kamara, another member of the '17 draft class, is also entering the final deal of his rookie contract to the one McCaffrey received earlier this week.that makes him -- in terms of annual salary -- the highest paid running back in league history.
Mixon has put up impressive numbers during his first three seasons with the Bengals. His 2,931 rushing yards is more than both McCaffrey and Kamara, while Mixon has done something Kamara has yet to do in his career: rush for over 1,000 yards in a season. That said, McCaffrey and Kamara have significantly better numbers as pass-catchers, with Kamara having well over twice as many career receiving yards than Mixon. Last season, McCaffrey joined Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk as the only backs in league history to reach 1,000 rushing and receiving yards in the same season.
One contract that could be closer to Mixon's range than the one McCaffrey signed is the four-year, $24.5 million contract Chargers running back Austin Ekeler recently signed with Los Angeles. While the contract "only" makes him the 11th highest-paid running back in terms of annual salary, Ekeler's contract included $15 million guaranteed, which is the seventh-highest total among running backs.
While no deal has to be made over the next week, it will be interesting to see if the Bengals select a running back at some point during the draft, which is set to begin next Thursday. If anything, adding another running back to their depth chart would give the Bengals another option if contract talks with Mixon don't go well.