Early in the 2011 season, the Raiders offense was really clicking thanks to the one-two punch combination of running backs Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. McFadden is the more electric running back, using his blend of speed, power and shiftiness as the big-play back. Bush is the 250-pound bruiser, wearing down defenses and imposing his will. The team has leaned on both of these backs for their offensive success and, in most cases, it has worked well for them.
The issue with each of these backs lies with the perception that neither will be able to be a "go-to guy" for an entire NFL season. McFadden, as exciting as he is, hasn't played a full season in four years, due to a variety of injuries. Bush is viewed as a back that has to be paired with a smaller, quicker counterpart so the "thunder and lightning" combination can succeed. Regardless, each of these backs are effective in their own respective way.
ESPN's John Clayton tweeted that the Raiders could have a tough time being able to hold onto both backs going into 2012 because of salary cap issues.
It will be hard for the Raiders to keep both McFadden and Bush because of the salary cap.
So why is this tidbit of Raiders news being discussed on a Bengals blog? It's because the Bengals are in the market for a running back and one of these two players would fit the bill. With McFadden entering the final year in his lucrative rookie contract and Bush set to become a restricted free agent this season, this is a logical place the Bengals could look to make a move.
McFadden seems to be more like the type of back that the Bengals will be in the market for this offseason. They need speed and athleticism at the position and he definitely provides both. With the Bengals' West Coast Offense going into its second season, McFadden is the type of back that offensive coordinator Jay Gruden would love to have. His injury issues aside, the major hurdle for the Bengals in acquiring McFadden is that they would have to swing a trade for him. We also don't know if the Raiders are open to trading McFadden at this point, given their love of having players with speed. The Raiders do have a new General Manager who has been entrenched in housecleaning mode, so he could look to get McFadden's big contract off of the books.
For a few reasons, the more sensible acquisition of the two backs for the Bengals would be Bush. The Bengals have been linked to Bush dating back to the 2008 and 2009 seasons. If you remember, there were rumblings that the Bengals looked at drafting Bush late in the 2008 draft when he went pro. Then, when Chad Ochocinco made his trade demands public, rumors began to float that the Raiders were offering Bush in a trade offer for the then-Bengals wide receiver. Bush was a restricted free agent last offseason as well, and there were some more rumors of the Bengals being interested. Now may be the time for the Bengals to strike.
It's now just a matter of if the Bengals want the same type of running back that they coveted back in 2009. With Gruden's new offensive system, Bush may not be the fit that they are looking for. Though Bush did have career highs in carries and yards, he only averaged 3.8 yards per carry on the season. However, he did have a surprising 37 receptions on the season with an 11.3 average, and that's a facet to a running back's game that Gruden undoubtedly wants for 2012.
Though we may be grasping at straws a little bit here, it's important to note the cliche of "where there's smoke, there's a fire". Given the recent history here, don't be surprised if more rumors about this situation begin to surface between the Raiders and Bengals once again in 2012.