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Cincinnati Bengals RB Cedric Benson Set to Hit Frigid Free Agent Waters

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Let's take a walk down memory lane shall we? In 2008, the Bengals picked up former first round draft choice Cedric Benson, who had finally worn out his welcome with the Chicago Bears after limited productivity and behavior problems. It was a typical Mike Brown move -- bring in a guy on the cheap with character concerns. But to be honest, the expectations for Benson at that point were about as high as a Milli Vanilli comeback tour. But Benson showed signs of promise that year, particularly in the last three games of the season when he rushed for 351 yards in a three game stretch, including a 171 yard performance against the Browns -- the Bengals won all of those games.

In 2009 Benson became the beast that he was drafted as. Former offensive coordinator Bob Bratowski designed a power rushing scheme and fed him the rock 301 times in only 13 games, with which he accumulated 1,251 yards on 4.2 yards per carry. On top of that, he only fumbled the ball one time during that time period and led the team to a 10-6 record and a playoff appearance. The offense wasn't exciting and it wasn't glamorous either, but they won football games doing it.

The 2010 season had fans predicting Super Bowl, but instead they got a colossal flop. Bratowski's apparent rewriting of the entire offense turned out to be drunken Monday evening attempt to recapture the glory days of old (not that I've ever done that or anything). The 'new' offense spelled disaster for Benson who declined in every statistical category. His total yards dropped by 100 despite 20 extra attempts, he fumbled six more times (often in key situations), his runs of 20+ yards decreased from 10 in 2009 to 2 in 2010, and there have also been unconfirmed reports that he started to show signs of hair loss.

All of this begs the question: Does Benson deserve a new contract? And if so, then how much?

We have to assume that whatever the asking price would have been for a new contract after the 2009 season, that price would have to come down significantly after his miserable 2010 campaign. Of all NFL running backs last year, only Peyton Hillis had more fumbles than Benson, and of all 17 RBs who ran for at least 1,000 yards, Benson had the lowest yards per attempt (3.5). Those aren't exactly the kinds of numbers that are begging for a fat new contract.

Teams looking for a RB this offseason aren't going to be tempted to pay Benson much money if and when he hits the market - particularly after the draft which features plenty of mid to late round talent that can be had at a much cheaper price and provide a lot more value. So it's not likely Benson is going to have much leverage with Mike Brown in contract negotiations.

It stands to reason then that Ced the Pred could be had next year for a relatively cheap price. The free agent pool, which is currently frozen because of the lockout, is going to force teams who need a running back to look to the draft to get one. And even if the market thaws after a new agreement is reached, it's likely that Benson is going to be swimming in cold waters. AND, if the Bengals draft a running back from this year's class, that will virtually eliminate all leverage he has with the team currently. Meaning, if Benson does end up stripes next year, it'll probably be done the Mike Brown way: on the cheap.