The Cincinnati Bengals are knee-deep in the AFC playoff picture, slowly wading past teams as they are eliminated from contention. So, it's not exactly the right time to talk about the offseason, but there are some issues and decisions facing the club in 2013. One of the major issues staring them in the face is at the running back position.
As it currently stands, only BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Daniel "Boom" Herron are under contract going into next season. If you had made this proclamation in October, one would have likely cringed. But, given "The Law Firm's" resurgence in the second half of the season, things look a little brighter. Still, three backs that are currently on the team's roster are unrestricted free agents.
Bernard Scott, who is nursing a season-ending injury, along with Cedric Peerman and Brian Leonard all have expriring contracts. Each brings a different and valuable element to the table. Peerman excels at special teams and has become quite the complementary back to Green-Ellis, while Leonard is a third down specialist and is a strong pass protector, Scott is the "speed back" of the group and his services were almost non-existent this year because of his injuries.
So, what's the plan of attack going forward? Does Scott's injury history make him expendable? This offseason, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden planned for Scott to have a bigger role in the offense. Will Gruden want Scott back, or will he choose to look in the draft for the new speed back?
What of Leonard? He was brought in via trade in the Bratkowski era, so one is inclined to think that he's "one of Bob's guys". Still, the team extended Leonard's contract after Gruden took over and he has filled in with the injuries to Peerman and Scott. But, when Peerman was healthy, Leonard's role had diminished noticeably, so it's hard to tell where he stands.
I think Peerman is a coveted player in Cincinnati and I expect the team to try and keep him, if possible. His forte is special teams, but he's shown his worth in the running game as well this season. An unfortunate ankle injury has sidelined him recently, so it will be interesting to see how the end of his season shapes up.
It's a safe assumption that the Bengals will try to keep one or two of these backs, but not all three. They will likely look in the draft this season to get another complementary guy to the group. The question lies in which of the three unrestricted free agents do they keep?