2012 NFL Free Agents: Will Michael Bush Be a Cinicinnati Bengal in 2012?

Matt GrayContributor IFebruary 17, 2012

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 27:  Michael Bush #29 of the Oakland Raiders rushes three yards for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears at O.co Coliseum on November 27, 2011 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Oakland Raiders running back Michael Bush is set to be one of the biggest talents on the free agent market in 2012, and with the Cedric Benson era likely over in Cincinnati, Bush could be a prime target for the Bengals.

Bush has languished in a backup role behind Darren McFadden in his time as a Raider. However, he has proved that he deserves a starting job in the limited opportunities that he has been given.

When McFadden went down injured in 2011, Bush stepped into the starting role and did so in an emphatic manner. The highlight of his impressive 2011 campaign was a 157-yard rushing and 85-yard receiving game against the San Diego Chargers in Week 11.

His production tailed off towards the end of the year due to so much emphasis and reliance on him, which resulted in him appearing to be tired an awful lot.

However, in an offense that isn't solely reliant on his running ability, Bush can be a real force in the backfield. The Bengals are more than capable of throwing the ball to A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham, while Bush would be likely to see the same amount of carries as Cedric Benson.

This will allow him to stay fresh for longer. What's more, with Bernard Scott likely to remain the relief back, Bush will not be as over-worked as he was in Oakland.

With a style that matches Benson, and production that blows him out of the water, Bush could thrive in the Bengals offense. He would fit nicely into what the Bengals are trying to do, whilst providing a competent pair of hands to throw to as well.

The Bengals running game was largely stagnant in 2011, which has lead many to question whether Cincy need to overhaul the position. In particular, there are questions surrounding the downhill style of running that Benson has brought them in recent years.

The addition of Bush would not see the Bengals' running philosophy change dramatically. Rather, the hope is that—after some impressive showings in Oakland—Bush can deliver the consistent production and penetration that Cedric Benson has failed to.

The Raiders could apply the franchise tag to Bush, but it will cost them in the region of $7.5 million. With another RB (Taiwan Jones) under contract for the 2012 season, the likelihood of keeping Bush around to be an expensive backup seems remote.