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Reassessing the Bengals’ running back situation: Current options and free agents

In the wake of Cedric Peerman’s injury, there may be more room on the roster temporarily.

NFL: Preseason-Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

It breaks your heart to hear about a severe injury to a Pro Bowl player and all-around good person like Cedric Peerman. In the second quarter of the third preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, he landed awkwardly on his arm after being tackled near the sideline. His forearm caved under the pressure and he was taken out of the game afterward. It was later announced that he has a left forearm fracture and will be undergoing surgery, putting his season in jeopardy.

In addition to Peerman, it’s not a good situation for the Bengals either. Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard look as healthy as ever right now and don’t look like they’ll need the backups to relieve them once the regular season starts. But, the running back position is a punishing one. That’s why the Bengals generally prefer to keep four running backs on the roster. There are multiple directions they can chose to go with the available spot.

Reserve running backs

With Peerman sidelined for a while, it opens up a spot on the final roster that the Bengals could do multiple things with. The open spot could allow a chance for one of the Bengals’ other running backs to get some much needed time on the active roster before Peerman comes back. As of right now, the Bengals have two undrafted players, one rookie and one first year player, on the roster who were battling for a practice squad spot, but now might be battling for a roster spot.

Tra Carson

One of the most exciting prospects so far this offseason has been a player with virtually no chance to make the final roster, until now. That player is Tra Carson, who has made enough big plays to enter the discussion, but not ensure a spot on the team.

He will need to find more consistent productivity if he wants to replace Peerman on the active roster. On Thursday night, Carson had 42 yards on 14 attempts, a 3 yard per carry average. In the first three games, Carson totaled 66 rushing yards on 29 attempts and added 42 receiving yards on 4 catches.

Bronson Hill

The other running back named Hill has been much less effective in the preseason. With Rex Burkhead on the roster, there isn’t as much of a need for a reserve running back who can double as a pass catcher. Hill tallied 36 yards on 10 attempts, a 3.6 yard per carry average. He also added one catch for 1 yard. In the first three preseason games, Hill totalled 18 yards on 11 attempts including a -3 yard night in Jacksonville. He did add seven yards on one catch in the first preseason game and 13 yards on three catches in the third preseason game.

Free Agents

When it comes to free agency, the Bengals tend to be more active when it comes to shoring up the depth, rather than making big splashes for potential starters. Picking up a free agent to add competition might make sense given neither Carson or Hill have wowed the Bengals.

Bernard Pierce

If you’re looking for familiarity with the Bengals, there aren’t too many available experienced free agents who are more familiar with the Bengals than the former Ravens running back. He proved to be a decent option for the Ravens when playing behind Ray Rice. 2013 was a particularly good year for Pierce, who recorded 436 yards and two touchdowns on 152 carries, as well as 104 yards on 25 receptions. For a decidedly backup running back, those numbers aren’t bad at all.

He typically played well against the Bengals, but health and effectiveness issues in 2014 led to him signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2015. He was almost completely irrelevant for the Jaguars, only recording 13 all-purpose touches over the course of the season. The Bengals would probably be able to sign the 26-year-old running back for peanuts at this point.

Joique Bell

Despite appearing to garner some interest from various teams back in June, the former Lions backup is still available. Because he just turned 30 earlier this month, he won’t get the kind of interest from other teams that he might deserve after recording 2,235 yards on 561 carries in his 15 total starts over five years in the league.

Those numbers aren’t enough to get him a sizeable contract with a team that might potentially give him a starting job. But, the aging running back would be a decent fit as a plug-and-play option. For the sake of roster depth, Bell could be a smart addition while Peerman is recovering.