Over the past two seasons, the Bengals have been in complete overhaul mode at the running back position. Last year, they traded in longtime workhorse, Cedric Benson, for a newer model in BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The move paid off to an extent, as Green-Ellis had a solid season cracking over 1,000 yards rushing and wasn't the locker room question mark that Benson was. Now, in 2012, the Bengals face
three two more running backs hitting free agency that they had on the roster last year.
A third was looking to hit free agency, but the Bengals locked up Cedric Peerman on Thursday to a two-year deal. The team has long-valued his ability to play special teams, but an increased role on offense gave the four-year pro a new opportunity for his NFL future. The coaching staff obviously took notice and wants him in their 2013 running back stable.
So, it's now Brian Leonard and Bernard Scott who are looking at hitting the free agent market. We conjectured a few weeks back that the team would likely have to make a decision between Peerman and Leonard and it appears that the staff has made their choice (for the record, your votes agreed with the Bengals' staff as well). The reason that we think that Leonard will be allowed to walk is because he and Peerman do many of the same things on the team, namely play some special teams and go in on third down packages. Leonard is a superior pass protector and receiver, but Peerman has more speed and is a demon on the punt coverage unit.
The other thing to remember is that Leonard isn't a "Jay Gruden guy". The Bengals swung a trade with the Rams back in 2009 for him when Bob Bratkowski and Carson Palmer ran the offense. Palmer liked to check down to Leonard frequently, but his role has diminished over the past two seasons. Though Leonard had the most carries in his four years in Cincinnati, they were mainly in mop-up duty and his receptions continued to decrease to a paltry count of 11 in 2012.
It's entirely possible that the team brings back Leonard at a later date for some camp competition and Lord knows that injuries happen throughout the course of the season. However, with Gruden proclaiming that the team is needing "playmakers at running back" and the common opinion being that they'll look at a couple of guys in the draft, Leonard and Scott could be the odd men out.