The Cincinnati Bengals and running back Larry Johnson have agreed to terms and the "deal is done", writes Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk. As of this posting, neither the Bengals nor Johnson's agent Peter Schaffer had announced anything official. But we're sure a nice morning announcement will be scheduled, maybe even with the introduction of Johnson to the press and fans.
The initial thought was that the Bengals were concerned enough about Cedric Benson's injury that they contacted and invited Johnson for a workout. However, Marvin Lewis said during the press conference Monday afternoon, that he "spoke to Larry Johnson last Thursday, and I wanted to visit with him about his future." ESPN's Michael Smith wrote that the Bengals were one of several teams to express interest before Sunday.
Which means the Bengals were interested before Benson's injury on Sunday.
Johnson's legal troubles are well documented. He's been arrested four times since 2003. The charges include felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor domestic battery when he waved a gun at his girlfriend at the time. Charges were later dropped. A woman made an accusation that Johnson pushed her to the ground. The case was dropped because the accuser didn't appear in the hearings. In 2008, he allegedly pushed a woman's head and his fourth arrest came when he spit a drink in a woman's face. He pled guilty to both and sentenced to two years of probation.
Johnson's career peaked, so far, between 2005 and 2006 when he rushed for 3,539 yards and recorded 37 rushing touchdowns. He was a threat out of the backfield in the passing game too, catching 74 passes in that time frame.
I understand the points against signing Johnson. I've made them myself.
From a purely football perspective, Johnson does bring something to the table. Even though he only carried the football seven times on Sunday, Benson is still the league leader with 205 rushing attempts. He's nine rushing attempts from reaching a career-high 214 attempts in 2008. Furthermore, Benson is hurt. What better scenario than to give give Benson a game or two off to rest and recover, allowing a healthier and stronger Benson during the stretch run towards the playoffs.
I know what you're saying. What about the Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard committee. I wondered that myself. But we honestly don't know whether either running back can be a 20-carry feature back. Scott said he felt great after a 13-carry performance against a hard-hitting Steelers defense. And, as Lewis said, this potential signing is merely an insurance policy.
UPDATE: Contract Signed and Benson responds. Joe Reedy tweets that the contract is signed and that we're just waiting for the official announcement. Reedy also tweets a Cedric Benson comment, "It’s good for him. I was once in that position and he’s getting his opportunity again."
UPDATE: Schefter provides contract situation. ESPN's Adam Schefter writes that "Larry Johnson gets $4 million Chiefs owed him AND veteran minimum Bengals will pay him AND chance to play for contender." This is Johnson's seventh season, so he's accrued six seasons. Estimates are that he should get between $630,000-$730,000.
UPDATE: Bengals cut Orien Harris to make room for Johnson. For the second time, the Bengals excused themselves of defensive tackle Orien Harris for a running back. The first, a trade with St. Louis for Brian Leonard. The second, released to make room for Larry Johnson.