BALTIMORE - NOVEMBER 20: Cedric Benson #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates his team's only first half touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on November 20, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens lead the Bengals 14-7 at the half. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Former Bengals running back Cedric Benson finalized his one-year deal worth nearly $5 million (after incentives/bonuses) last season and wasn't invited back, despite generating three consecutive seasons with over 1,000 yards rushing. Hell it wasn't even a thought entertained by Cincinnati, who reportedly didn't initiate any negotiations for the running back, still fairly disgruntled against the team's coaching staff -- specifically the offensive coordinators.
Who can blame the Bengals anyway? First of all, a player reaching the 1,000-yard milestone only needs to average 62.5 yards/rushing per game. He averaged 71.3 in 2011, which followed up a 69.4 yards/game average in 2010 (along with a 3.5 yard/rush). Save for the 2009 season, where he was a big part of the team's offense, Benson has been, at best, average over the past two seasons. And the Bengals don't pay $5 million for average production from a running back would could be one incident away from a full-year suspension.
Benson, Geoff Hobson at Bengals.com writes, is "mystified why the Bengals didn't opt to re-sign him".
"I am surprised and I'm not surprised," Benson said. "I think the offensive coordinator wanted to go in a different direction."
Well that's true. It was time for a change of direction into a more effective ground game. And Benson, in coordination with poor blocking from the offensive line, wasn't getting it done. Benson, Nate Livings and Bobbie Williams have all moved on while the offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is expanding the offense with young guards and a committee philosophy at running back.
Benson was also surprised at the somewhat insignificant value teams viewed him with, signing a league minimum deal with no incentives or bonuses. Additionally if he goes on Injured Reserve, his salary drops significantly to a prorated $393,000 salary.
"It's not the way I thought it was going to happen," Benson admitted Monday. "With my résumé, I thought I deserved some better coin, but it doesn't matter now."