ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 18: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals hands there ball off to Cedric Benson #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on December 18, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Bengals beat the Rams 20-13. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Guest appearances continue filling in for Paul Daugherty's The Morning Line, the latest being Robb Hoff who "has freelanced for ESPN’s production research department" and "written for newspapers and magazines over the years and previously promoted his book Crackers For A Lycanthrope in the Greater Cincinnati area." Hoff writes about the Bengals because in this city, it's always the Bengals first and Reds second -- not that we're interested in getting into a "whose town is it" debate. And during that discussion, one nugget stood out.
Regardless how the offense evolves under the direction of coordinator Jay Gruden, a power running back remains a must in the AFC North. Benson has rushed for over 1,000 yards for two Bengals playoff teams. His demeanor and off-field issues might cause heartburn, but all public posturing aside, the Bengals should apply the lower transition tag amount for RBs of about $6.5M to retain some leverage with Benson. If another AFC team wants Benson, make them pay for his services.
Unlike the franchise tag, the transition tag takes into account the top ten salaries at a player's respective position. However much like the franchise tag, if the contract tag offers less than a 120 percent increase from what the player made the previous season, then ditch all of that and give the man a 120 percent raise. The key is factoring in the higher salary and in Benson's case, the increase doesn't surpass the transition number and therefore that's the figure we're using. The Transition Tag for running backs in 2010 was $7.151 million, increasing to roughly $8 million last year. Though year's official numbers will be released within a few weeks, the projected transition tag number for running backs will roughly be around $6.9 million.
All of that being said the Cincinnati Bengals won't tag Benson, no matter the designation or level of said designation. First of all Benson signed a one-year deal worth $3 million with another $2 million in bonuses for a cap number of $5 million. You're essentially giving Benson a raise after a stale 2011 season, admittedly behind a poor rush blocking offensive line. But Benson fumbled the football 12 times in his past 31 games, lost seven while averaging 3.7 yard/rush over the course of the previous two seasons. Realistically we could go through a checklist of reasons why Benson doesn't fit with Cincinnati's future, along with his outspoken criticism with the coaching staff through the media; something a young team doesn't need right now.
Though we're projecting without knowing what the team plans and even though the team and player are expected to mutually separate, if the Bengals end up bringing Benson back in 2012, it won't be through the use of a tag.