But that doesn’t mean they’ve replaced Samaje Perine, the tough veteran running back who could step in on passing downs and chip a pass rusher or two. In fact, he earned the fourth-highest pass blocking grade of all running backs from Pro Football Focus last year. So it won’t be easy to replace him.
So don’t be surprised if the Super Bowl contenders add another person to the backfield before the season opener. Here are five options:
#1 - Ezekiel Elliott
The former Ohio State Buckeye has been linked to the Bengals ever since he was cut by the Dallas Cowboys back in March. Elliott burst onto the NFL scene back in 2016, quickly becoming one of the best running backs in the league.
In his career, Elliott has rushed for over 1,350 yards three times and scored double digit touchdowns in four of his seven seasons. But times have changed, and now he’s racked up 1,881 rush attempts.
At this point, Elliott is not going to be anyone’s lead back. But he’s still an elite blocker, and really, that’s what the Bengals need more than anything from the player who is to spell Mixon.
#2 - Leonard Fournette
The fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft had a career rebirth in Tampa Bay, where he won a Super Bowl with Tom Brady and a Buccaneers team littered with veterans writing their redemption stories. While the veteran running back saw his average dip to 3.5 yards per carry last year, he actually had career highs in all three major receiving categories, with 73 receptions for 523 yards and three touchdowns.
#3 - Kareem Hunt
Early in his career, Hunt was one of Patrick Mahomes’ biggest weapons in Kansas City. Then a video of him assaulting a woman emerged. Though he wasn’t imprisoned, he would suffer an even worse punishment: being signed by the Cleveland Browns. Four years later, the 27-year-old remains unsigned despite still having a lot of burst left. Should the Bengals want another weapon in the passing game, Hunt would fit the bill.
#4 - Rex Burkhead
The former Bengal is a nice addition to any backfield. He runs hard, has solid hands, and understands his role. While he’s never put up eye-popping numbers, he could chip in here and there, which might be enough with the presence of Mixon and Brown.
#5 - Giovani Bernard
Okay, yes, he’s retired. But the Bengals’ first 2013 second-round pick is still just 31 years old. And it’s possible that the prospect of playing with Joe Burrow and a rejuvenated o-line will be enough to convince him to finish his career in Cincinnati. In terms of fit, Bernard has always played much bigger than his size in pass blocking and was once an electric receiver out of the backfield. The expectations would be tempered this time around, and he would fit right in with a city that loves him and a locker room that has one of the best cultures in the league.
In case you missed it, don’t forget to check out our preview of the AFC with Pacman Jones:
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