Focus On The NFL Draft For Cincinnati's Next Running Back

USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals didn't make much of a play on free agent running backs this year, leaving little doubt that they'll address the position through the draft.

Less than five weeks remain for the 2013 NFL draft, leaving the opening month of free agency in a dusty wall from spinning tires. The romantic portion of free agency, with NFL insiders tweeting breaking news about high-profile players signing long-term contracts that suffocate a team's salary cap, has largely concluded. Aging veterans or players with known durability issues remain, as do middle to lower tier players looking to earn a spot on a team's roster; typically when Cincinnati tends to squeeze in a hanful of players.

Cincinnati has signed or tendered 16 players in March with quarterback Josh Johnson being the first (and only as of this posting) free agent that didn't play for Cincinnati in 2013, applying a game-plan they've intended from the start.

"I think what we're trying to do is grow in the best way possible. We are planning to spend our cap money, and we're hoping and we're intending to spend it on our own people," Brown told the Cincinnati Enquirer and Bengals.com earlier this week. "There is no single silver bullet. We're shooting a lot of small shots. That doesn't mean that it isn't going to cost the same amount of money. And it doesn't mean we aren't going to have the best team possible."

Negotiations are on-going with offensive tackle Andre Smith while cornerback Terence Newman is deciding between offers received from the Bengals and Oakland Raiders.

Cincinnati has said that they want to bring linebacker Thomas Howard back. But there's enough concern regarding a torn ACL that's keeping him as a free agent, with Miami being the only team that's hosted Thomas.

While hosting Mike Goodson (who signed with the Jets), the Bengals also had rumored interest with Reggie Bush (Lions), Rashard Mendenhall (Cardinals) and Steven Jackson (Falcons). Cincinnati also hosted Chris "Beanie" Wells, but an injured knee has kept him on the market, despite multiple visits with other teams.

The top free agent running backs remaining at this point is a collection of injured and aging backs at a position that takes significant punishment during a short-career span. Ahmad Bradshaw still isn't visiting teams while he recovers from foot surgery. Atlanta released Michael Turner, who turned 31 in mid-February, citing a failed physical. Felix Jones' season last year was a flop and he's rarely been healthy enough to play a full 16-game season. Neither he, Peyton Hillis or Turner have generated any interest among NFL teams at this stage in free agency.

It doesn't matter.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis admitted during league meetings that Cincinnati will draft a running back. It's further believed that the Bengals will address running back with one of their top three selections at No. 21, No. 37 or No. 53 during the 2013 NFL draft. Names like Ed Lacy, Montee Ball, Andre Ellington, Le'veon Bell, Christine Michael, Jawan Jamison, Mike Gillislee, Giovani Bernard and Marcus Lattimore are all possibilities; though some names may be scratched out due to durability concerns.

Regardless of who the Bengals decide, it will be a month before Cincinnati finds their "two" in the planned one-two punch with BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

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