Both the Cincinnati Bengals and running back Samaje Perine agreed to go separate ways this past offseason. The Bengals stuck by Joe Mixon and Trayveon Williams, and Perine opted for what looked to be a more opportune role in the Denver Broncos’ backfield.
Fast forward seven months. The Bengals have displayed minimal trust in any running back not named Mixon, and Perine is playing virtually the same role on a terrible team that’s going nowhere and could stand to liquidate any and all assets.
Is it time for both sides to reunite? It would make plenty of sense with one potential drawback.
Cincinnati is not only missing Perine’s reliable running style, they’re longing for a receiver out of the backfield to give Mixon a much-needed breather. All four running backs on the Bengals’ roster have been targeted at least once through six games. The production on those targets outside of Mixon have been abysmal.
Mixon has 16 receptions for 104 yards (two missed tackles forced) on 20 targets. The trio of Williams, Chase Brown, and Chris Evans have combined for eight receptions for 13 yards (ZERO missed tackles forced) on nine targets. That ain’t gonna cut it.
Meanwhile out in the Rockies, Perine has put together 17 receptions for 184 yards (nine missed tackles forced) on 18 targets; all greater than his receiving production this time last year.
Much concern regarding Perine’s departure surrounded his ability to pass protect, but his true absence has been felt with his more prominent role in the passing game. It’s a wonder how they haven’t even gotten close to replicating it with three other players, two of them (Brown and Evans) being superior athletes!
Cincinnati’s offense has issues that trump receiving production out of the backfield, but while Tee Higgins works through his injury and slump and Joe Burrow fully returns to his normal self, it would benefit the offense by having that go-to option as a checkdown over the middle or in the flats.
So what’s stopping this reunion? It shouldn’t be Denver’s willingness to part ways with Perine. He’s underwhelmed as a runner and is third fiddle in the backfield behind Javonte Williams and rising rookie Jaleel McLaughlin.
His contract will be easy to eat, and there shouldn’t be much interest elsewhere for his services. The Bengals would take on the remainder of his base salary this year, and the $2.83 million in non-guaranteed salary he’s set to earn in 2024.
The barrier lies within Cincinnati’s front office. Sure, the Bengals could execute a late-round pick swap with the Broncos and effectively not lose any draft capital, but it could mean they lose a draft pick in another fashion.
According to OverTheCap’s 2024 compensatory pick projections, Perine’s contract he signed this offseason would net the Bengals a seventh round pick. The Collective Bargaining Agreement states that the Bengals could lose that pick if they were to trade for Perine the same year he left.
“If a Club trades for a player who was a CFA during that League Year, whether the player was another Club’s CFA or the acquiring Club’s own CFA, the player will be considered a CFA gained by the acquiring Club and will be included in the Compensatory netting process…”
In a nutshell, would the Bengals essentially part ways with one of the last picks in the upcoming NFL Draft to get Perine back for a year and a half? You’d think the answer would be obvious, but getting them to sacrifice any draft picks for players is like pulling teeth.
This potential dilemma didn’t stop the Kansas City Chiefs this week. Kansas City traded for wide receiver Mecole Hardman, who left them in free agency for the New York Jets, in exchange for a pick swap. The Chiefs received the Jets’ sixth-round pick and the Jets got the Chiefs’ seventh-round pick while losing their projected sixth-round comp pick that they gained from letting Hardman go.
Hardman returned to an offense that knew how to use him, and the Chiefs lost a seventh round pick. That’s pretty much how it would go if the Bengals did the same with Perine.
We’ll see if some teeth get pulled leading up to October 31.