Even though the team and running back Cedric Benson have talked about a contract extension as far back as last May, Benson will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. And it seems likely that the Bengals would bring Benson back, for the simple reason that they only have one running back signed for next season (Bernard Scott). According to Joe Reedy, Benson is "receptive" about returning, "especially after a recent 90-minute conversation with (offensive coordinator Jay) Gruden."
"We had an interesting conversation about a lot of things," Benson said. "We have a lot of things in common as far as the way we see the game."
But should the Bengals even sign him?
Most of us agree that the Bengals need a workhorse that can carry the football over 20 times a game; especially with the team's push to bring back the power rushing offense like they did in 2009. And while Scott presents variables that haven't been considered for the team's future, the team would be insane to make him the feature back with his durability concerns. You might not like that excuse, but it no less exists. When he was the feature back for two games in 2009, he missed three games with a toe injury.
That leaves Cedric Benson, an even less effectual running back no one wants on the free agent market or a draft pick as your three options. Admittedly, an effective feature back is a lot easier to find than a quarterback. But Benson is known to the Brown family and the team tends to favor what they know, rather than expanding beyond their own comfort zones. It's a high probability that Benson will be re-signed if he wants to return.
In late September, Benson was frustrated that the offense took a more ariel approach compared to the power rushing philosophy last year's division champions used. Keep in mind. Benson popped off after two regular season games. The week one loss against the New England Patriots, the Bengals were down 28 points early in the third quarter, so it's natural his rush attempts would be down. During the team's 15-10 win over the Baltimore Ravens, Benson rushed 23 times.
The following day, Benson clarified that the struggling offense needed to execute better, but also needed an identity. Over a month later, Benson added to an already frustrated Terrell Owens that the coaches aren't listening to the players.
After the season was over and Benson finished the season with his first back-to-back 1,000-yard season, speculation generated that the running back wouldn't return if Bob Bratkowski remained as the team's offensive coordinator. And when Bratkowski was fired, Benson applauded the move, saying:
"It's good to see the Bengals making some moves," Benson said. "It's not just about going back to that '09 style, but being able to fit everything together and use our talent. And we've got a lot of talent and I don't see any drop off if those guys (Owens and Ocho) don't come back."
The irony in Benson's point of view is the lack of his own accountability. Along with sporting an ineffective 3.5 yard/rush average, Benson fumbled the football seven times, losing five. And his fumbles have happened at the most inopportune times.