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Commentary: It Depends On How Much Cedric Benson Views Himself

NFL Network's Vic Carucci writes that the Bengals "have reason to be leery of committing to Benson." During an interview last week on Sirius NFL Radio's Late Hits, Bengals running back Cedric Benson believes he's deserving of a big contract. And he would like it if it were with the Cincinnati Bengals. According to Carucci:

Gruden would like to incorporate the runner as a component in a scheme that has balance and has the quarterback often making high-percentage throws that act as running plays.

Benson ranked 13th in the NFL with 1,111 yards rushing and only one running back fumbled the football more times than Benson last season. And of the 17 running backs that posted 1,000-yard seasons in 2010, Benson posted the fifth lowest first down conversion percentage (18.4%). Pro Football Focus graded Benson as the league's 31st best running back, with a -1.8 score rushing the football.

After rushing for 282 yards on 63 carries during the final two games in 2008, flawlessly coming through on a roster that seriously lacked productive running backs, the Bengals awarded Benson with a two-year contract worth $7 million in March of 2009. And Benson produced. During the team's AFC North Championship season in 2009, Benson posted a career-high 1,251 yards rushing in 13 games, averaging 96.2 yards/game -- second only to Chris Johnson who rushed for over 2,000 yards. His six 100-yard games that season set a franchise record. Benson turned that over in 2010 with over 100 less rushing yards even though he posted 20 more rush attempts. Then again, Benson also posted a career high seven rushing touchdowns and scored his first ever receiving touchdown.

How much value do the Bengals place on running backs?

After Rudi Johnson set franchise records with 1,454 yards rushing and 361 carries in 2004, he became a free agent. The Bengals placed the franchise tag on him in February of 2005, which would have given him $6.3 million for that season. A month later Johnson signed a five-year contract worth $26 million and $12 million guaranteed.

Johnson set another franchise record in 2005, rushing for 1,458 yards on 337 carries. And from 2004-2006, Johnson scored 36 rushing touchdowns. He was released just before the start of the 2008 season. He was 27 at the time -- one year young than Benson today.

What Does The Dotted Line Say?

Benson averaged $3.5 million over two seasons from 2009-10. Rudi Johnson earned just over $5 million with the five-year contract he signed in 2005. If we were to make bold predictions (that we're not really known for), we figure that the Bengals may offer something in between. Even though Johnson's contract was signed six years ago, we don't see the Bengals offering anything more than what they signed Johnson to. At the same time, they could view Benson's veteran presence and workhorse attributes high enough to give him a significant raise from his base $3.5 million average.

It all boils down to what Benson thinks he's worth.