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How Good is Cedric Benson?

There is a lot of buzz on blogs and WLW this week about how the Bengals should have given Cedric Benson the franchise tag, rather than Shayne Graham.  That would have required the Bengals to pay Benson $6.62 million next season, which, in my opinion, would be ridiculous. 

In ranking running backs with over 100 carries, the Football Outsider ranks Benson as the 46th most productive running back out of 49.  Incidentally, Chris Perry ranked dead last, coming in 49th out of 49.

Let's look more closely at Benson's production last season. He carried the ball 214 times for 747 yards and two touchdowns.  He averaged 3.5 yards a carry.  However, over half of his yards last season were gained against 4 really bad teams - Cleveland (38/171/0), Kansas City (25/111/1), Washington (21/73/0), and Jacksonville (24/101/1).  Granted, the guy did play tough against Pittsburgh (30/87/0) but he averaged less than 3 yards per carry in that game.

Is it possible that Benson could continue to perform like he did in December, averaging 4.1 yards per carry?  Perhaps, but not likely.  His career average is 3.7 yards per carry.  Can he carry the load for a team over the course of a season?  We don't really know.  Prior to last season, he had never carried the ball more than 200 times or gained over 700 yards. 

Do the Bengals want Benson back? Absolutely.  Should the Bengals pay him $6.62 million for such a limited span of production?  No.  That would be foolish.