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Bengals Targets in Free Agency: Running Backs

Even before Cedric Benson re-arranged his friend's face in Texas, the Bengals needed to address the running back position this off-season. They didn't take a RB high in the draft, so they must sign at least one in free agency, possibly two. Bernard Scott is currently the only RB on the roster who can make a difference. So let's find somebody who can either carries the ball over 20 times per game, or somebody who can split carries with Scott until a franchise RB is found. Here is my list of the top RBs who can be acquired this off-season. One of these players will be in stripes next season, and I'm not talking about Cedric Benson's prison stripes.

  1. DeAngelo Williams - Panthers - 27 - One of two premiere RBs that can be acquired this off-season. Williams is a one-cut RB that hits the hole quickly and has great cutback vision. Durability and price tag are my only concerns.
  2. Ahmad Bradshaw - Giants - 25 - The other premier RB. Bradshaw is younger and fresher than Williams. Bradshaw is a squatty RB that can grind out tough yards and help as a receiver. Had fumbling issues last season. Expect a huge deal for him.
  3. Michael Bush - Raiders - 27 - The Bengals have been linked to Bush before. I think us fans have been mentioning him as a target for the Bengals for the past 3 seasons. He's a big back that runs with some shift and elusiveness. Good feet and balance makes him a deceptive runner. Has never carried the load before. I think Bush is our most realistic option.
  4. *Tashard Choice - Dallas - 26 - If Choice was a free agent, I would rank him as a top 5 option for the Bengals. He can do it all as a #1 RB. Run inside and out, pass protect, and catch out of the backfield. Watch his '08 game vs the Steelers to see how he would fit in. Could be had for a 3rd or 4th round pick.
  5. Joseph Addai - Colts - 28 - Addai is a good blocker and receiver in the pass game. Never really gets the chance to run behind a FB or a power offensive line. I think his rushing in underrated for that reason. Id give him a look, but wouldn't overpay. I think he ends back up in Indy.
  6. Tim Hightower - Cardinals - 25 - Hightower is an over-achiever. He's a well-balanced RB who can help in every aspect of the game. Not the best blocker or receiver but he's serviceable.
  7. Jason Snelling - Falcons - 27 - Snelling is just waiting for his chance. He is a big back with good hands and a great blocker. A lot of mileage left on his tires for being 27 years old.
  8. Le'Ron McClain - Ravens - 26 - McClain is reportedly in the best shape if his life and it's because he wants to be a feature RB. He's carried the ball a lot in the past, but his carries have decreased with the emergence of Ray Rice. Risky to give him a lot of money, but the reward could be very high.
  9. Cedric Benson - Bengals - 28 - Benson would be higher if it wasn't for legal issues. Sometimes trouble just finds a man. He's 28, could be facing a suspension and had a terrible '10 campaign. But we do know what we're getting with Benson. He's a tough runner who can carry it 25+ times per game.
  10. *Steve Slaton - Texans - 25 - After a stellar rookie year, Slaton has fumbled away his job to Arian Foster. Now he'll never get it back. Slaton is blessed with tremendous speed and surprising toughness and balance to run inside. He could be traded for a low pick or possibly released.
  11. *Brandon Jacobs - Giants - 29 - Jacobs, when at his best, is a superior power runner. He doesn't offer much as a pass catcher/blocker and isn't going to break the big one. He could be released this off-season.
  12. Ronnie Brown - Dolphins - 29 - Brown is on the decline, but how much does he have left? He's battled injuries for the past 2 years and this is how RBs start to fade away. I think he has at least two 200+ carry season left in him and that could be a good way to split time with Bernard Scott.
  13. Reggie Bush - N.O. - 27 - Bush is due to make $12 million this year. He must restructure his deal or he'll be released. While he's not that lead back, Bush is a weapon that must be accounted for everytime he touches the field. The Bengals would need a power back to pair with Reggie if they targeted him.
  14. *Marion Barber - Cowboys - 28 - Barber used to be the Cowboys bell cow RB. He runs so hard that he wore himself down. There are plays where he gets hit 4 or 5 times and still doesn't go down. He can still run with power and really sets the tone for the offense. Barber will most likely be released.
  15. Brandon Jackson - Packers - 25 - Jackson was the Packers 3rd down RB until Ryan Grant got hurt. Then Jackson lost that spot to rookie James Starks in the playoffs. At 25, Jackson is just entering his prime and while he's not your every down back, he can split duties and play the 3rd down role.
  16. Cadillac Williams - Buccaneers - 29 - Cadillac is 29 and has an extreme injury history. A once premier RB, Williams is now a complementary player who can back up a guy like Bernard Scott, while still carrying the ball 100+ times per season.
  17. John Kuhn - Packers  - 29 - The Bengals have tried signing Kuhn before without success. This time, he's unrestricted and coming off of his best season. Can Kuhn carry the ball even more in 2010? Could he be our Peyton Hillis or Mike Alstott? Probably not as good, but he can add a power dimension if the Bengals go with Scott as their starter.
  18. Ricky Williams - Miami - 34 - Even at 34, Williams has some gas left in the tank. He missed out on the prime if his career, and since then, he's battled injuries and backed up Ronnie Brown. He's only a #2 RB at this point, but he can carry the load for a game if you need it.
  19. Darren Sproles - Chargers - 28 - Sproles is a better player than where I ranked him. It's the fit that I don't like. He's a number two RB that helps as a pass catcher and in the return game.
  20. *Willis McGahee - Ravens - 29 - McGahee still has enough left in the tank to split carries with a guy like Bernard Scott. He's still is a good goal line back and still has the meanest of stiff arms. He will probably be cut due to his salary.
  21. Clinton Portis - Redskins - 30 - Another aging star. How much does Portis have left? I don't think he has much. He's been declining for a few seasons already and probably can only carry the ball 100 times a year.
  22. Kevin Smith - Lions - 24 - Smith is a guy I liked coming out of college. He was beaten to death in college with how many times he carried the ball. In Detroit, it showed up as he's battled injuries. Even though he's 24, he's got alot of highway miles. Still some upside if he can be used sparingly.
  23. Derrick Locke - Kentucky - 22 - Lockie was supposed to be drafted in rounds 5-7. He wasn't, and its been rumored that a back injury kept him off most team's draft boards. He's worth the risk as an UDFA signing. Locks is a short, quick back who has good balance and speed.
  24. Jerome Harrison - Eagles - 28 - Remember when he played for the Browns and ran all over the Bengals in 2009? That was his career. Since then, he fumbled his roster spot away in Cleveland and was traded to the Eagles. I still think there's some upside here but Harrison has to get his mind right.
  25. Darren Evans - Va Tech - 22 - Power RB who wasn't drafted. Evans could definitely be one of those UDFA RBs who always find a way to contribute.
  26. Laurence Maroney - Broncos - 26 - Maroney was a former first round pick who can't seem to get right. He's young enough to still be able to play physically but he's never seemed to be really into the game.
  27. Tiki Barber - NYG - 36 - At age 36 and after sitting out 3 seasons, what does Tiki Barber offer? I think he can still play a limited role by Backing up your starter and playing the 3rd down back.
  28. Julius Jones - Saints - 30 - Jones has been bounced around the league over the past few seasons. He's a backup with his best years (that weren't that good) behind him. Borderline number 3 back.
  29. Mewelde Moore - Steelers - 29 - 3rd down back that can help in the running game only sparingly at this point.
  30. Brian Leonard - Bengals - 27 - We know about our guy Leonard and we know we would like him back as our #3.
  31. Brian Westbrook - 49ers - 31 - Westbrook is a shell of his former self at this point. He can still contribute, but he's a concussion away from dying on your field. I'll pass.


* Player is still under contract, but is expected to be released or placed on the trading block.