Cincinnati Bengals Free Agency: Who Are the Best Fits at Running Back?

With the Cincinnati Bengals likely to move on from Joe Mixon, here are some free agent running backs that would be good fits to pair with Chase Brown

CINCINNATI — Joe Mixon tied a franchise record in 2023 by leading the Cincinnati Bengals in rushing in seven consecutive seasons, matching the run Pete Johnson had from 1977-1983.

But the expectation is that Mixon will not be back for a chance at an eighth. And even if Mixon accepts a pay cut similar to the one he took ahead of 2023 to stick around, he could struggle to lead the team as his carries would be greatly reduced with the emergence of Chase Brown.

Trayveon Williams is a free agent, and Chris Evans has struggled to get on the field since the team drafted him in 2021.

Free Agent Running Backs the Bengals Could Target

The Bengals will be adding running backs in free agency, the draft, or both.

Given Brown’s inexperience — 44 carries and 14 receptions during his rookie season in 2023 — it would make sense to sign a veteran who can share time with Brown and push him for the starting role.

Let’s take a look at some of the options who would be a good fit. But first, let’s rule out a running back who many Bengals fans seem to have on their wish list — Josh Jacobs.

Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders

First, Jacobs is going to be far more expensive than Mixon. Second, he’s even less explosive, and that’s the main thing the coaching staff is looking for to upgrade the run game.

Jacobs averaged 3.5 yards per carry last year, and he had just nine runs of 10+ yards. Among 36 players with at least 100 carries, Jacobs’ nine explosive runs ranked 32nd. And his rate of one explosive every 26 carries ranked last.

Mixon had three times as many 10+ runs with 27 despite an obvious decline in explosion.

Lastly, there were questions about giving Mixon a four-year, $48 million contract in 2020 when he already had significant wear and tear with 693 carries. Jacobs’ market value at is similar to what Mixon got four years ago — four years, $40 million.

Jacobs has 1,305 career carries, and he’s 26. Mixon is 27.

The cost-benefit analysis is way out of whack with Jacobs.

Now, for the running backs who do make sense.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs

He checks every box, including one no one other free agent can — trust and familiarity from playing with Joe Burrow at LSU.

Edwards-Helaire felt like a Kansas City cap casualty option last year with the emergence of Isiah Pacheco and Jerrick McKinnon. Edwards-Helaire stuck around and averaged just 5.8 touches per game while winning a second Super Bowl.

MORE: Identifying the Best Offensive Free Agent Fits for the Cincinnati Bengals

He’s still young, both in terms of physical age (turns 25 in April) and playing age (441 career carries). His 11.1 yards per reception led the NFL last year among running backs with at least 15 catches.

Spotrac’s market value for Edwards-Helaire is one year, $1.6 million.

Antonio Gibson, Washington Commanders

He’s averaged 4.1 yards per carry since the Washington Commanders drafted him in the third round in 2020, although his attempts have fallen off from 258 in 2021 to 149 in 2022 to just 65 last year.

But Gibson, who will turn 26 in June, has been consistent in the passing game, catching 42, 46, and 48 passes each of the last three seasons, and he comes with a Spotrac market value of one year, $3.6 million.

Rico Dowdle, Dallas Cowboys

Dowdle picked a great time to have a career year. After accumulating 24 career carries in his first three seasons after signing with Dallas as an undrafted free agent, Dowdle rushed 89 times for 361 yards and two touchdowns in his contract year.

The lack of wear and tear and expected low price tag could make him a fit.

Zack Moss, Indianapolis Colts

He’s averaged 4.3 yards per carry or better in three of his four seasons, and last season in Indianapolis, when Jonathan Taylor missed the first four games, Moss was tied for fourth in 10+ runs with eight, behind only Christian McCaffrey, Bijan Robinson, and James Conner.

Moss, who turned 26 in December, also set a career high with 27 receptions in 2023. His Spotrac market value is two years, $9.2 million, which likely would be near the top end of the Bengals’ range, if not beyond it.

Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams

Another back with a Spotrac market value that might not fit — two years, $8.3 million — Akers will only be 25 in June, and he has just 398 career carries.

MORE: Will Tee Higgins Stay in Cincinnati?

The Rams traded him to the Vikings in September, and he only played six games for the Vikings. In his last full season in LA in 2022, Akers had 786 yards, a 4.2 average, and seven touchdowns.

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