Let's take a walk down memory lane, shall we? About this time last year, the Bengals were in desperate need of a running back with Cedric Benson entering free agency. Originally it was believed that Benson would sign back, if anything, as a way to show appreciation for the Bengals taking a shot when no one wanted him. The feeling was mutual with the Bengals, who put their highest priority on bringing Benson back during last year's offseason. Still, the Bengals had to prepare for losing Benson, targeting other available running backs.
One player the Bengals targeted was former Giants running back Derrick Ward. If was reported on February 27, 2009, that the Cincinnati Bengals were one of five teams to offer Ward a contract. The contract that Ward was looking for was reportedly all over the map. We expected Ward to look for something that Brandon Jacobs got, roughly $25 million with $13 million guaranteed, when in fact Ward was looking for Michael Turner money (roughly six years and $34.5 million). Ward would eventually sign a four-year deal worth $17 million with Tampa Bay.
The Bengals were still without a feature running back, putting more emphasis on bringing Benson back. Fortunately, other NFL teams weren't even interested in Benson (or they're just plain idiots). Benson did visit the Texans in his home state, but general interest was lacking mostly because a couple of previous arrests put him in the league's moral doghouse. In the end, the Bengals got Benson back on a two-year deal worth $7.5 million.
As for Ward, his expected production is going to vastly improve this year. Ward finished his first season with the Buccaneers playing 14 games, starting one and recording 409 yards rushing on 114 carries (3.6 yards-per-rush) and a touchdown. Benson only averaged the second-most yards rushing per game in the league, behind 2,000-yard rusher Chris Johnson.
Hindsight is always 20/20. And in hindsight, the Bengals nailed their running back roster last offseason.