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Wesseling: Bengals Will Re-Sign Cedric Benson

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Once (if) the lockout is lifted, the Benglas will, without a doubt, address the running back position. They'll be operating under new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's west coast offense, in which they'll be relying on a strong running attack to help set up rookie quarterback Andy Dalton's short and intermediate passes. They're going to need a running back than can handle the abuse of running between the tackles on first and second-downs against the Steelers and Ravens defenses. That running back is not Bernard Scott.

Scott, while talented, lacks the size and durability to be a feature back in the AFC North, especially for a team looking to establish a strong running game. He'll be better served as a change of pace or third-down back. Cedric Benson, on the other hand, was, and is, pretty ideal for what the team did in 2009 and wants to do again in 2011. He's short and stocky and weighs in at 227 pounds. In the last two years, he's proven that he can be a feature back and run between the tackles in the tough AFC North.

That's all great news, he would be perfect to help keep defenses honest and set up the passing game. There's only one problem, he's not on the Bengals roster right now.

Fear not, though, Bengals fans. There are some out there that believe that Benson is as good as ours.

RotoWorld's Chris Wesseling recently broke down this year's free agent running backs and Benson was on top of the list. 

He believes that Benson will definitely hit the free agent market but there are enough red flags to keep some of the running back needy teams, like the Colts and Giants, away. Those red flags include a 3.5 yards per carry average in 2010, the fact that when he did go over 4.0 yards per game, it was against teams with bad run defenses, and a checkered off the field past. 

Benson may run out into the free agent market only to find that teams aren't willing to give him what he wants, and come back to the Bengals, who will be waiting with open arms.

Benson has made it crystal clear that he's looking for one last serious contract in free agency. The Bengals ignored running back until the seventh round of the draft, and coach Marvin Lewis acknowledges that re-signing Benson will be the top priority once free agency begins. Lewis wants to turn the clock back to 2009, saddle up his plowhorse again, and use a defense/ground attack now that the Bengals are moving on from Carson PalmerChad Ochocinco, and Terrell Owens. In other words, the Bengals are set to make the same mistake in organizational philosophy that the Bears made in reaching for Benson at No. 4 overall in 2005. With the exception of the best defense of the past 25 years (2000 Ravens), stout defense and ball-control offense don't win Super Bowls -- elite quarterbacks do. Benson may think he can do better than $5 million per year. In related news, Benson is delusional.

Wesseling predicts that the Bengals will not only re-sign Benson, but that they'll re-sign him for three years and $15 million.

But what if that doesn't happen? Here are some of the other free agents that the Bengals could have to make a decision on.

The Chargers will probably allow Darren Sproles to walk out the door, but the Bengals need a between the tackles power back, not a third-down passing threat. So, Sproles is out.

The Dolphins drafted Daniel Thomas this year to fill in the void that letting Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams will create. They may be moving away from the Wildcat offense and, if that happens, they won't have much use for Brown and Williams anymore. Brown is about the same size as Benson but a year older. If the Dolphins decide to hang on to one of these two backs, it will likely be him.

Williams is also the same size as Benson and Brown, but is 33 years old. He likely won't be re-signed by the Dolphins and will be allowed to leave. If the Bengals aren't able to re-sign Benson, Williams could be an interesting option, but they will need to get Scott more playing time to help keep Williams healthy. The Bengals could sign Williams for a fairly cheap price, but he wouldn't be signed to anything longer than a year.

There's Clinton Portis, but he hasn't played a whole season as a feature back since 2008. He's also going to be 30 years old by the time the season starts. The Benglas won't touch him.

And then there's always Kevin Smith out of Detroit. To me, this would be the bottom of the barrel for the Bengals -- a last resort.

Then there's the restricted-free agents that the Benglas could try to get their hands on if they choose to try to beat offers from other teams.

There's DeAngelo Williams from the Panthers, Ahmad Bradshaw from the Giants, Joseph Addai from the Colts, Michael Bush from the Raiders, Mike Tolbert from the Chargers, Tim Hightower from the Cardinals, Jason Snelling from the Falcons, BenJarvus Green-Ellis from the Patriots, Jerome Harrison from the Eagles and Brandon Jackson from the Packers.

There are a few on this list that could fit into what the Bengals would want to do on offense. Williams could be a good fit, along with Addai, Bush, Hightower and Snelling. However, I don't see the Bengals looking to spend the kind of money they would need to bring one of these guys to Cincinnati. 

In the end, I do believe it will be Benson who receives Dalton's hand offs in 2011. He's right for the system, he won't be too terribly expensive and I think he wants to come back to the Bengals. 

The Bengals won't trade or do anything drastic to find their running back, I think they'll let Benson test the market and if he doesn't like what he sees, they'll re-sign him.

Either way, we're going to have to wait until God knows when for the lockout to be lifted before any team makes any steps to shore up their running game.