Now that we are past the NFL draft, I can take an early assessment of where we are as a team before the end of the lockout and eventual start of free agency. Today, I will look at the halfback position.
Cedric Benson is an unrestricted free agent, but all signs point to the team wanting to bring him back. That is a good thing, as they didn’t draft a running back until Jay Finley of Baylor with their compensatory pick in round 7. Bernard Scott is signed for another couple of seasons, but is more of a change of pace back and special team contributor. Brian Leonard, the third down specialist, was extended a second round tender offer just in case the league operates on the 2010 rules of restricted free agency. Cedric Peerman is an exclusive rights free agent that plays sparingly.
Best case scenario: Mike Brown pursues a stud free agent like Michael Bush or DeAngelo Williams, assuming 2009 free agency rules apply or a CBA gets worked out before free agency. Very unlikely…
Worst case scenario: Benson gets a better deal elsewhere and we overpay for an aging veteran like Rickey Williams or roll the dice and hope that Bernard Scott can hold up for 16 games.
Another Possibility: Benson comes back hoping to improve on his 1111 yards and career best 7 touchdowns. Benson has been solid, but he will be looking to cash in on what is probably his last pro contract.
Outlook: You have to believe that the club feels like Benson will be back since they waited so long to draft a running back. He should have some tread left on the tires since he didn’t top 200 carries in a season till he came to Cincinnati in 2008. If he walks, we could have a hard time replacing him if the 2010 free agency rules apply, which would mean six years of service before unrestricted free agency instead of four. It remains to be seen how heavily Jay Gruden’s offense will use the running backs. This is definitely one of the biggest question marks of the offseason.