Analyzing Cedric Benson’s Top Five Potential Suitors
As training camps getting going in full force and preseason games nearing, there are still many fairly accomplished veteran players looking for work. One of the most accomplished among them is running back Cedric Benson, who has posted at least 1,000 rushing yards in each of the last three seasons but was not brought back by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Benson looked to be on his way to becoming a draft bust after being the fourth overall pick in 2005 by the Chicago Bears, but the Bengals took a chance on him and he was able to produce at a solid level. But he will turn 30 in December, and that has proven to be an age where running backs begin to show signs of decline. That said, Benson only has three season with more than 250 carries in his career, the past three as it were, so he should have something to offer any team that has a need at running back.
With that, here are the five teams I feel should have the most interest in bringing Benson aboard at some point prior to the start of the season:
The Lions have one the league’s best and up and coming passing offenses with quarterback Matt Stafford, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and others in place, but they were 29th in the league in rushing offense (95.2 yards per game) in 2011. They have big questions in their current running back group with Jahvid Best having yet to be cleared for contact during training camp as he deals with the after effects of multiple concussions, Mikel LeShoure being suspended for the first two games of the season after multiple offseason arrests and Kevin Smith with his own injury history. Benson would bring a proven commodity to the Lions’ backfield at the very least, though his limitations as a pass catcher (career-high of 28 receptions in a season) may curb the team’s interest in him.
By letting Michael Bush leave via free agency this offseason, the Raiders now have a couple of unproven players in Taiwan Jones and Mike Goodson behind Darren McFadden, who has yet to play all 16 games in his four NFL seasons. Oakland head coach Dennis Allen has recently said the team will move forward with Jones and Goodson behind McFadden, but that was prior to the team starting training camp practice. Things could easily change if the coaching staff is unimpressed with Jones or Goodson or someone suffers an injury during camp or a preseason game, and at that point the Raiders’ interest in Benson could ramp up quickly.
New York Jets
A recent report has suggested the Jets have “spoken” to Benson, and given the lack of experience they have behind Shonn Greene right now that is not too surprising. But Benson and Greene have similar skill sets, so adding him would seem to be redundant for the Jets as they need a running back who offers better potential to work on third downs and as a pass receiver. All things considered, the Jets can’t be ruled out when mentioned to have interest in any available player and they may be willing to give Benson the salary he is looking for.
Arizona has questions in their running back rotation, with Chris “Beanie” Wells recovering from offseason knee surgery and Ryan Williams coming off missing his entire 2011 rookie season with his own knee injury (torn patella tendon). Williams is reportedly making progress and Wells has promised to be ready for Week 1, leading to reports the Cardinals will not look to add another running back. But if Wells’ injury lingers and leads to little game action during the preseason or Williams struggles to be fully healthy that would almost have to change as Week 1 nears.
Green Bay Packers (Get Packers tickets!)
The Packers obviously have one of the NFL’s best offenses led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but their running game is surely lacking as they ranked 27th in the league (97.4 yards per game) in 2011. Green Bay’s lack of interest in bringing back running back Ryan Grant seems to convey that they have at best little interest in signing a veteran back, and they may be comfortable moving forward with James Starks and Alex Green as their top two running backs despite the injuries both young backs have had during their careers to this point. If Green Bay has real interest at any point and makes an offer, Benson may be willing to take a smaller role and smaller salary with the prospect of winning a Super Bowl in play.
At this point, it would most certainly take a significant injury for a team to offer Benson a role as a primary workhorse back. As reflected in these five potential suitors, any team looking to add a veteran to their backfield can do worse than Benson but perhaps his asking price has been too high for many teams at this point. With that potentially in play any interested team may wait until after Week 1 to sign Benson when the risk is lower, since his entire salary for the season would not have to be guaranteed as it would if he is on a roster in Week 1.