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Mixon, Bengals Keep It All In The Family

Joe Mixon has an announcement to make with Paul Brown (right), Katie Blackburn (far right) and photo by Elizabeth Blackburn (left).
Joe Mixon has an announcement to make with Paul Brown (right), Katie Blackburn (far right) and photo by Elizabeth Blackburn (left).

Peter Schaffer, one of the last of the old guard NFL agents who was there when free agency was born and contracts were announced by the morning newspapers, had just done another deal Tuesday when he asked his client how he wanted it announced.

Joe Mixon, the client, could have tweeted it, Instagrammed it or just left it to one of the NFL insiders waiting on call to announce the four-year, $48 million extension making him the highest paid running back in the history of a franchise that also boasts Corey Dillon, Rudi Johnson and Cedric Benson.

The Bengals won't announce it until Mixon signs it, probably before Wednesday morning's walkthrough.

Mixon just happened to take the call in the Paul Brown Stadium office of Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn even as the smoke of the numbers smoldered. He told Schaffer he had just been in a photo with Blackburn, her brother Paul Brown, the vice president for player personnel who did the deal with Schaffer, and Blackburn's daughter, Elizabeth, the team's director of strategy and engagement who snapped the classic early 21st century selfie.

"Tweet that out," Schaffer told Mixon. "That's the announcement. They're your family."

So ended an eighth-month negotiation that began back in January at Wintzell's Oyster House during the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala when Schaffer dined with Paul Brown and Troy Blackburn, Katie's husband and club vice president.

That's not exactly an anomaly. Schaffer and Brown are good friends and have been for years dating back to when Brown lived in Colorado for a time. And negotiating with the Bengals is nothing new for Schaffer. He did his first deal with Bengals president Mike Brown when he was working with Lamont Smith and they repped the Bengals' No. 1 pick in 1991.

Alfred Williams.

Forget before a rookie wage scale. Try before free agency and before Elizabeth Blackburn was born.

"That's 30 years of building a relationship with people. All the way back to Alfred Williams," Schaffer said.

For those eight months, Shaffer says, Mixon's marching orders were simple. Do what you have to do to keep me with the Bengals.

"He loves it there," Schaffer said on this very big day for his own family out in Denver. "Joe's all about family and ever since he was drafted they've made him feel like family. That's matters to him. Joe can't tell me the name of a club in Cincinnati. Probably the only restaurant he can name in Cincinnati is Pappadeaux's. He really is a homebody. He just likes to spend time with his family."

Schaffer knows all about that. All about family. He's lived and breathed it while aching and consuming it the last few godawful years, when both his teenagers have been stricken by cancer. Gavin, his son, was diagnosed not long after his older sister Lillian had her remission/graduation party.

"Joe flew out for that," Schaffer said.

That's the kind of stuff Mixon does. Not only was he on the phone with Peter Schaffer finalizing a life-changing contract on Tuesday, he was on the phone with Gavin Schaffer congratulating him.

It seems that Tuesday was the first day high school juniors could be offered lacrosse scholarships and Long Island's Adelphi University in Peter Schaffer's native New York State had come through.

It seemed like everyone was on the horn Tuesday congratulating everyone. Gavin. Mixon. Mixon's mom.

"It's been a good day out here," Schaffer said.

Mixon talks to Gavin every day. He's near the end of his treatments and he's back on the attack as one of his team's attackmen, but Mixon has been known to still call him during his chemotherapy appointments.

"It's funny because he'll get on there every night and play X-box with Gavin and a lot of times Trevor will be on there, too," Schaffer said.

"Trevor," is another Schaffer client. Trevor Baptiste, who back in 2018 when the Boston Cannons drafted him became the first black player ever drafted No. 1 overall in lacrosse. A four-time All-American at the University of Denver, Baptiste sometimes goes with Gavin to the appointments. But on Tuesday he was watching him play in a game.

They call Baptiste "The Beast," but they could call Gavin that, too.

"Like Joe," Schaffer said.

Mixon's deal wasn't easy. Schaffer and Paul Brown meet at the same sushi place for one dinner during every NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. They met at Mikado this year, but there were just too many moving parts so early (A.J. Green, the No. 1 pick in the draft) to have dessert. Plus, trying to settle on a number for a running back in a pass-happy league is a perpetual puzzle.

And then, a week later the world changed with the pandemic. Would they play? Would they not? What about the salary cap for 2021? What? If? How?

Throw in the Derrick Henrys, the Melvin Gordons and Alvin Kamaras and maybe the even-keel Paul Brown and the always cool Schaffer were the only guys that could have got a deal done in the pandemic of '20. It got hot enough that when Mixon missed three practices last week because of migraines it was speculated in some media that it was because of the contract.

But Schaffer and Brown didn't blink.

"You have 30 years of a relationship and you make sure everything stays on the rails," Schaffer said. "A lot of the credit goes to P.B. A lot of people don't realize the value that he brings to the franchise as a good face for agents. He's very humble, understated and people gravitate to him."

It must have been a good deal because in his office Paul Brown was praising Schaffer. "He's been doing it a long time and he's got a lot of good players. I'm happy for Joe. He's the kind of guy we want to build with around here."

A good day all around.

"We'll be celebrating going to Pappadeaux 's out here," Schaffer said, "and Joe will probably celebrating at Pappadeaux 's there."