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Matt Bowen: Too Early To Start Thinking Contract Extension With Cedric Benson

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Monday was a fun-filled amusement park day for Cedric Benson news. Early Monday morning a report by Carlos Holmes suggested that Benson's representatives approached the Bengals to talk contract extension. Later Monday afternoon, Brad Johansen wrote that a deal to give Benson a three year extension with roughly $16-20 million on the table, was close. We figured that the two sides would talk during the remainder of the offseason. But this was quick.

Was it too quick?

Since joining the Bengals, Benson has averaged 79.9 yards rushing per game. Take out 2008 (which we do regularly) and the running back's average skyrockets to 96.2 yards/game -- second behind Chris Johnson, who only rushed for 2,000 yards in 2009. Cincinnati also sports a winning record when Benson starts. On the downside, during a season that we call his career-year in 2009 -- rushing for 1,251 yards and a 4.2 yard/rush average -- Benson only recorded six touchdowns rushing. And none of those touchdowns came during the final five regular season games he played.

The question you could ask, should the Bengals reward Benson with a contract extension after playing one good season? Well, that's actually the question that National Football Post's Matt Bowen asks.

I usually take the player’s side when I write about contracts if they are productive, but unlike a Chris Johnson in Tennessee, Benson has done it for one year. That isn’t enough in my book to start asking for money.

Believe it or not, this is a mind set that I've long agreed with. Play out the deal and if over the life of the contract you increase your value through production, then yea, go for it. Bowen continues:

That makes Benson more attractive and more marketable when he does show the team that he can do it again in 2010. And, if he is still producing at a high level come November and December — and this team is winning again — there is no reason not to start talking about a new deal.

Because Benson will have earned that right.

For now, I tell the Benson camp that it is too early. Cincy needs to lock up some defensive talent first. Great year in ’09, but why don’t you show me again before I make you an offer. And, doing it again will make Benson even more money.

Here's where it could shoot you in the foot. If the Bengals are in the neighborhood of what Johansen is hearing -- a deal that would last through 2013 and pay the running back nearly $20 million -- then there's always the possibility that the deal will bite Cincinnati back. In truth, the $4-5 million per season average is hardly debilitating regarding the team's overall payroll and if that's the cost to keep the team's best offensive player in 2009 -- that helped lead the Bengals to the playoffs, no less -- then that's what you pay.

However, if no extension is signed and Benson replicates last season -- if he played a full-season schedule and maintained his yards/game average he'd crush Rudi Johnson's franchise record -- then there's a likelihood that Benson's value in the NFL exceeds what the Bengals would be willing to pay; especially considering that they'll need to negotiate a deal with Leon Hall and possibly Brandon Johnson. Do you sign him now, or run the risk that his 2010 performance could bid you out of his services beyond next year?

(h/t Jaegner)