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Cincinnati Bengals Free Agent Targets: Running Backs

February 8th, 2012 at 1:37 PM
By Chuck Chapman

Having broken down the Cincinnati Bengals salary cap situation yesterday, let's turn our attention to some areas where the Bengals might be looking to upgrade. The Quarterback position is set with Andy Dalton and Bruce Gradkowski. Zac Robinson was on the practice squad and might remain with the team, but the Bengals didn't even dress a third quarterback all season, so I doubt they'll be looking at what is a mediocre group at best.

Running back is a different story. Cedric Benson is likely gone as an unrestricted free agent, leaving the Bengals to fill the feature back position either through free agency or the draft. We'll continue to look at the draft options as the combine approaches, but for now, let's look at which veterans might fill the bill as the Bengals main running threat:

Ray Rice, Matt Forte Marshaun Lynch are on the market, but probably not for long. They will more than likely be re-signed or franchised by their current clubs. Peyton Hillis is likely on his way out of Cleveland, but I doubt the Bengals will be looking to add any drama to the team and Hillis showed signs of wear already last season.

Former Louisville standout Michael Bush would be the first name on the list. The soon-to-be-former Oakland Raider was pressed into the feature back role when Darren McFadden went down and performed well. Bush ran for nearly 1000 yards and seven scores despite only starting 10 games for Oakland. His 3.8 yards per carry isn't eye-popping, but Bush has size and burst. What's more, he was an outstanding receiver out of the backfield, a must for Jay Gruden's offense. He caught 37 passes for 418 yards for Oakland. He's not been a full-time back to this point in his career, so he should have some good years left in him.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis may be left on the market as well. Even though he helped New England get to a Super Bowl, the Patriots have shown in the past a lack of sentimentality about their running backs, preferring to plug in a new one rather than spend on an established back. "The Law Firm" saw his carries, yards and average dip this season, but he still was reliable around the goal line, finding the end zone 11 times. Green-Ellis isn't quite the pass catcher the Bengals would be looking for, but then again neither was Cedric Benson.

Green Bay's Ryan Grant came back from injury to put up a decent season, splitting carries with James Starks. Grant is also an accomplished receiver out of the backfield. It would appear Grant's season ending knee injury of a year ago hasn't slowed him down any as he averaged 4.2 yards per carry for the Pack this season. With the cheaper Starks and rookie Brandon Saine, Green Bay probably won't be looking to re-sign the former Notre Dame star.

Those are the big three the Bengals will be focused on to go with Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard in the backfield. Look for Cedric Peerman to return as well with his special teams presence and for the team to re-sign fullback Chris Pressley.

If neither of the three players above end up being signed, the team will look to find a feature back in the upcoming draft.


Tags: Bernard Scott, Brian Leonard, Cedric Benson, Cincinnati, Cincinnati Bengals, Football, NFL

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