Without a doubt, there are few teams in the NFL that has similar offensive firepower to the Cincinnati Bengals. After drafting elite quarterback Joe Burrow and Pro Bowl wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati has generated the most explosive aerial attack in the NFL on paper but what the team has struggled with over the past several seasons has been to generate a running game to balance out the offense. Up until now, Cincinnati has focused all of their free agent efforts toward bolstering the offensive line but statistical odds dictate that the team may shift strategies going into the 2024 offseason.
Cincinnati Bengals Projected to Bring in Elite Running Back in 2024
According to Bookies.com, gambling odds have dictated that Cincinnati is the second most likely team to bring in All Pro running back Derrick Henry during the offseason. Cincinnati was given +500 odds to bring in the 247 pound power back after he will hit free agency for the first time in his NFL career following the completion of the 2023 NFL Season. The only team given better odds than Cincinnati to nab the former Alabama standout is the New England Patriots after Bookies.com named them at +350 odds.
Rather than dance around the question, I am going to state my response to this assertion so that there isn’t any confusion: there is simply no way Cincinnati is bringing Henry into the Queen City this offseason. That isn’t a dig on Henry as I believe he is the most uniquely talented running back to play in the NFL for the past twenty years but for Cincinnati to drop a large sum on a running back after struggling to balance the salary cap after the five-year contract totaling $275 million awarded to Burrow this offseason would be straight Lunacy.
After the enormous contract extension to Burrow and impending contract negotiations with both Chase and current free agent wide receiver Tee Higgins, Cincinnati will likely have approximately $110 million wrapped up against the cap per season for the next four years. Given the current $240 million currently credited to the NFL salary cap, that would consume 45% of the teams salary cap to pay three of the teams fifty-five rostered players. While they are fantastic players, Cincinnati simply cannot afford to put another dime into the offense.
On top of that, Cincinnati already has a solid running back by the name of Joe Mixon. While I have grown frustrated with Mixon’s playing style and his legal antics including an incident where a family member shot a child during a friendly neighborhood nerf war, he certainly consumes every dollar that I would like contributor to the running back position. Mixon is currently projected to count $8 million against the 2024 Salary Cap while Henry would expect to come in at probably around $10 to $12 million.
Mixon is on the bubble himself as the team may consider cutting him this offseason due to the diminishing value of high contracts at the running back position. Mixon currently only has a dead cap hit of $2.75 million this season which means that the team would save $6.1 million against the Salary Cap by slashing Mixon’s inflated contract and starting promising young running back Chase Brown.
To argue that point, Mixon managed a middling Pro Football Focus (PFF) overall score of 71.1 (34th in the NFL) last season while Brown put up a slightly worse score of 63.9. The difference of course in Mixon has his $8 million cap hit while Brown’s hit is under one million per season. Although PFF scores argue for the release of Mixon, they also speak volumes over the quality of Henry. The elite Tennessee running back put up an outstanding value overall score of 90.2 last season (third best in the NFL) as he showed the league exactly why he’s the NFL’s most dangerous back.
While I have tremendous respect for King Henry, I think that bringing him onto a team with far too much money tied up in the offensive sill positions already would be a disaster in the long run. The team would quickly be able to pay for any other significant player as both the defense and offensive lines would torpedo in the coming offseasons. It may be an attractive proposal to just stockpile talent on the roster but Henry doesn’t fit into the Cincinnati scheme and would ultimately cause undesirable attention in the long run.
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