Of all the free agents that could possibly leave the Bengals after the 2010 season came to an end, two names stand out more than the others. Those two are running back Cedric Benson and cornerback Johnathan Joseph. Recently, Josh and I had a discussion about who the Bengals should re-sign, if they could only sign one of the two. Josh said Joseph, I didn't. After a few exchanges back and forth over Google chat, we decided that it would be best to decide this matter in a series of posts that explain our stance on the matter. So without further ado, here are the five reasons that the Cincinnati Bengals should re-sign Cedric Benson over Jonathan Joseph if they decide that they can only keep one of the two.
|Reason 1: Adam Jones|
Before the 2009 season, the Bengals added depth to their secondary by signing Adam Jones to a two-year deal. Jones, a former sixth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, played in five games before suffering a season ending neck injury accumulating 14 tackles. He also intercepted one pass and forced a fumble. This came while only starting in one game; he played the nickel position most of the time so he wasn’t on the field for all of the defensive plays. This past season, Joseph had 42 tackles and three interceptions. He played in more than twice the amount of games as Jones did. Last year Joseph had twice as many tackles and interceptions. Same goes when you compare his 2007 season with how he’s played in 2010. It’s hard to say that Joseph is on the verge of becoming one of the league’s premier shutdown corners coming off of one of the worst seasons in his career. I'm not saying that Joseph isn’t good because he is a very good corner. All I’m saying is that Adam Jones could prove to be just as good for the Bengals as Joseph has been. Having Jones playing in the nickel position from this point on is probably a waste of his talent.
|Reason 2: The 2011 Draft Class|
One of the most exciting times of the off season is the NFL Draft. While a case can be made for the Bengals to draft a player at almost every position, a player at every position isn’t possible. The class coming into the 2011 NFL Draft is heavy in certain positions and weak in others. One position that it’s very weak in is running back. If the Bengals decide to allow Benson to walk out the door and turn to the draft to find his replacement, they may have a rude awakening. According to the vast majority of draft analysis websites, including ESPN and CBS, there isn’t a running back worth selecting in the top-10 picks and according to a few sites, not even in the first round. The Bengals are in desperate need of a safety, a wide receiver, offensive lineman, defensive lineman, a fullback and they are possibly even thinking about drafting a quarterback, though now that Andrew Luck decided to stay at Stanford, that isn't likely. There isn’t any room in that list for the Bengals to select a running back, especially since this isn’t a strong running back class. Compared to anybody in the 2012 NFL Draft class, Benson is the Bengals’ best option.
While the 2011 NFL Draft class may not be very rich at the running back position, it is in the cornerback position. LSU's Patrick Peterson, Nebraska's Prince Amukamara and Miami's (Fl.) Brandon Harris are all cornerbacks that are considered to be first-round picks. If the Bengals decided to turn to the NFL draft as their deciding factor as to who they sign between Benson and Joseph, they may see that, this season, Joseph's position would be the easier to fill with a talented rookie.
|Reason 3: 2011 Potential Free Agents|
Here’s a list of potential free agent running backs in 2011.
- DeAngelo Williams - Carolina
- Jamaal Charles – Kansas City
- Jerome Harrison - Cleveland
- Michael Bush - Oakland
- Darren Sproles – San Diego
- Joseph Addai - Indianapolis
- Ronnie Brown - Miami
- Ricky Williams - Miami
- Le’Ron McLain - Baltimore
- Tim Hightower - Arizona
There are, of course, a few more but the list above is full of the biggest names in the potential running back free agent market (obviously, I left Benson out). It’s hard to imagine that any of the players on the list above would be able to fill Benson’s shoes -- a hard-nosed between the tackle power-back -- at the low price that the Bengals may be able to convince Benson to stay in Cincinnati. Williams is used to splitting carries with Jonathan Stewart -- Charles will likely be re-signed by the Chiefs -- I’m not convinced Harrison is nearly as good as Benson -- Bush hasn’t proven that he can be the featured back and he has barely more career carries (376) than Benson had this season alone (321 this season, 1,256 overall) -- Sproles isn’t a starting back anymore, if he ever was -- McLain is more of a fullback -- Brown isn’t durable enough to be a feature back -- Williams is on the home stretch of his career. The only backs on this list that I can see as being a possible replacement for Benson are Tim Hightower and Joseph Addai. The only players of those two that the Bengals could likely afford is Hightower. Would you be comfortable with a running back who carried the ball only 153 times in 2010 and just 439 times in his career? Benson, once again, is the best choice.
|Reason 4: 2011 May Be A Rebuilding Season|
Now that the Bengals have lost Terrell Owens and may decide to trade Chad Ochocinco's option, like many are expecting that they will, they will need to focus on replenishing their depleted wide receivers corps. If that turns out to be the case, they won’t be able to waste the time, a draft pick or the money on a new running back who doesn't know Cincinnati’s system. If the Bengals offense goes back to square one, it would be comforting to know that square one is Benson because Benson is good in a square one offense; see 2009. I don’t think that a rookie running back or anybody that the Bengals could find in free agency that would be cheaper than Benson would be good enough to carry the Bengals if they find themselves in a situation where Andre Caldwell is the most experienced receiver on the team. Benson is, again, the best option.
|Reason 5: Benson is Much Better Than He Gets Credit For|
Cedric Benson is one of only eight NFL running backs to rush for more than 1,000 yards in both 2009 and 2010. Those eight running backs are:
- Maurice Jones-Drew
- Jamaal Charles
- Chris Johnson
- Adrian Peterson
- Steven Jackson
- Ray Rice
- Rashard Mendenhall
- And of course Benson
That’s some fairly good company to be in. In 2009, the Bengals leaned on Benson like no other team in the NFL leaned on their feature back. Only five running backs carried the ball more times than Benson did in 2009. Of those five backs, only two took their teams to the playoffs like Benson did. Those two are Thomas Jones and Adrian Peterson. Thomas Jones had Shonn Green to help him out and Peterson had Brett Favre’s last good season to help him. Benson did it alone. Then in 2010, the Bengals decided to give their offense a full 180 and throw the ball more. Needless to say, it didn’t really work but still, even though the Bengals had a sub-par offensive line and they didn't utilized Benson nearly as much as they did in 2009, Benson still racked up over 1,000 yards.
In the end, we must realize that the Bengals can't just stroll on down to the free running back store and expect to find a running back capable of strapping the Bengals to his back like one of those car-top luggage carriers like Benson can. There just aren't many backs capable of the kind of constant battering ram-style running that like Benson is on the potential market or available in the upcoming draft. Because of this, I believe Benson is the Bengals best bet for 2011. If you can point me in the direction of another half-man half-ogre that can run like Benson can, then by all means let me know so I can change my tune.
So, in my humble opinion, the reasons that the Bengals should keep Cedric Benson over Jonathan Joseph (if they can only keep one of the two) are Adam Jones’ ability to slide into Joseph’s starting spot, the 2011 draft class is weak at the running back position, there aren’t any really suitable possible free agents to take Benson’s spot and, finally, Benson is just a lot more awesome than many have given him credit for. I think the Bengals offense would be much more effective in 2011 with Benson than they would be without him.
Stay Tuned: On Thursday at 10 AM, Josh Kirkendall will present arguments as to why the Bengals should choose Johnathan Joseph over Cedric Benson