Cincinnati Bengals: Free Agent RB Cedric Benson Criticizes Jay Gruden's Offense

Matt GrayContributor IFebruary 22, 2012

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 06:  Cedric Benson #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals stretches before the NFL game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on November 6, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Free-agency will shortly be upon us, and Bengals running back Cedric Benson is likely to be one of the many running backs looking for new homes in 2012. 

Speaking on Sirius NFL Radio's Late Hits, Benson confirmed that he remains in the dark about his future as a Bengal, commenting: "We haven’t had any talks about a new deal."

The consensus would suggest that Benson's time in Cincinnati has drawn to a close after disappointing fumble-ridden play, averaging 3.8 yards per carry in 2011 and recurring off the field issues.

With interest in him likely to be as low as it was last year, Benson has taken to shifting the blame for his lacklustre year to Jay Gruden's offensive scheme:

We had a chance to establish an identity and we kind of got in our rhythm at times and there were times that were tough, you can look at the statistics. We didn’t stick on what the offense was built on. When we had Carson and Chad we kept a strong identity in the run game and we kind of got away from it and didn’t let that part of the offense grow and bit the bullet on it a little bit.

It is perplexing to see Benson make reference to the 2010 offense as having had a "strong identity." In a team that went 4-12 and featured more drama than you can shake a stick at, it seems almost laughable to suggest that the Bengals should have stuck with the Bob Bratkowski-way.

This commentary is more a reflection of Benson's character than it is an accurate interpretation of the teams failings. The 2011 Bengals made the playoffs and took significant strides on both sides of the ball. Yet Benson preferred going 4-12 and getting a lot of touches. It is this me-first attitude that is alienating Benson, and it will likely cause him to struggle as a free agent.

Heading into this past season and at times during it, Benson has been seen as "the last of the old guard," and these comments seem to reflect that. He still has the ability to take a bruising, but his skill set is somewhat limited. 

Following 2010, Benson did not attract the criticism that Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco did, and it was believed that he could thrive under Gruden. However, Benson is not mentally invested in a new approach to offense, and as such he has tied himself to the Palmer era.

We will know more in three weeks, but as of right now, all signs point to a change in the backfield.