CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 25: Cedric Benson #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs for a 1-yard touchdown in the first half of an NFL preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at Paul Brown Stadium on August 25, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
It's not hard to imagine why Cedric Benson couldn't generate interest during free agency this year. The most glaring are two pending assault charges in Texas, one of which is supposed to begin on Monday. Another reason is the perception that his productivity is taking a dip. In 2009 with the Cincinnati Bengals, Benson largely led the organization to the AFC North championship, rushing for 1,251 yards rushing during 13 games with six touchdowns. During Cincinnati's 24-14 loss to the New York Jets on January 9, 2010, Benson posted 169 yards rushing and a rushing touchdown on only 21 carries.
For a reason that's not unlike a terrible sequel to a good movie, the Bengals choose to utilize a pass-heavy offense with Carson Palmer slinging passes with a (close to) ratio of 5-3 in 2010. Along with consistently playing from behind, the Bengals rushing offense seriously lacked any rhythm that eventually stalled those late-game gains that Benson picked up in 2009 that often sealed Cincinnati's victories. But we can only lay the blame outside of Benson for so long, who lost five fumbles last year, many during close games that determined the result. He also produced a less-than-mediocre 3.5 yard/rush average with an offensive line that's considered one of the better rush blockers in the league.
Every excuse combined, there was simply a lack of interest in Benson giving the Bengals an upper-hand during negotiations. On July 31, 2011 the Bengals signed Benson to a one-year deal worth $3 million with another $2 million available through incentives.
Scouts, Inc. agrees (In$ider) ranking Benson as the league's 25th best running back, comparing him with running backs like Green Bay's Ryan Grant, New Orleans' Pierre Thomas, New York's Shonn Greene and San Diego's Ryan Matthews. Bernard Scott ranked 53rd, but we largely suspect that's because of Scott's lack of on-field snaps. Brian Leonard rounded out the Bengals running backs at 87th, compared to guys like Tennessee's Javon Ringer, New York's Joe McKnight, Seattle's Michael Robinson and Miami's Lex Hilliard.