NFL Predictions: 4 Most Likely Landing Spots for Cedric Benson
News of BenJarvus Green-Ellis' signing with the Cincinnati Bengals immediately shut out the possibility of Cedric Benson's return, but the former first-round draft pick still has some juice left in those legs, and there are certainly teams looking for a running back in 2012.
After three mediocre seasons and a rocky past with the Chicago Bears, Benson was released and eventually signed with the Bengals in 2008. Despite a slew of arrests from 2008 to 2011, Benson performed extremely well in Cincinnati, rushing for more than 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. The production was there for Benson, but his legal troubles off the field made him a risky asset.
Upon hearing the news of Ellis' signing, Benson posted a classy farewell on the Bengals website and thanked the organization as well as the fans for his time in Cincinnati. Who Knows? Maybe Benson's optimistic farewell is a sign of him turning over a new leaf in his life.
If you can look past his potential behavior problem there may still be hope for Benson getting a job with another team. Three consecutive 1,000 yard rushing seasons is hard to pass up.
Here are the four most likely landing spots for Benson.
4. San Diego Chargers
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All 243 pounds of Mike Tolbert will be bouncing off tacklers in a Carolina Panthers uniform next season, and the San Diego Chargers could use a big body to complement Ryan Mathews.
Mathews figures to be the featured back in San Diego after splitting carries with Tolbert last season, but a solid backup like Benson would be a nice insurance policy should Mathews get injured or prove unable to carry the new workload. Tolbert rushed for 490 yards and eight touchdowns as a Charger, and that big body of his came in good use when San Diego needed to pound the rock into the end zone.
Benson is another big body but a lot more athletic than Tolbert.
3. Oakland Raiders
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Yes, I know Darren McFadden is the running back in Oakland, but his backup, Michael Bush, just left for Chicago.
When McFadden went down with a foot injury in 2011, Bush stepped up for the Raiders, picking up 977 yards on the ground and seven touchdowns. The Raiders will likely have McFadden back for the start of the season, but if his foot injury becomes re-aggravated, there really should be a solid No. 2 guy behind him.
While Benson may not like the backup role, his chances of being the starter anywhere are slim. Backing up McFadden is still a paying gig.
2. Cleveland Browns
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The Cleveland Browns are also in the market for a running back with Peyton Hillis, now with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Browns are sitting favorably with the No. 4 pick overall in the 2012 draft, and Alabama's Trent Richardson should be available to them by the time they hit the clock. In fact, rumors are that Cleveland is deciding between Richardson and Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon. Quarterback Colt McCoy would love to have either one at his disposal, but if the Browns were to sign Benson, then Blackmon would be the final piece in the offense.
Benson has another dimension to his running game compared to Hillis, who typically tries to plow his way to the end zone. Benson's veteran qualities are a step up in Cleveland.
1. New England Patriots
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This one is pretty simple. BenJarvus Green Ellis is now a Bengal, and the New England Patriots should be looking to add depth to their running game to counter his loss.
If Patriots head coach Bill Belichick can handle Chad Ochocinco, then Benson shouldn't be a problem either. Playing with a contender like New England could really benefit Benson, who could have a change of heart in his behavior playing with a guy like Tom Brady. Belichick has been known to keep his players in check during the season, and at 29-years old, Benson may already be outgrowing his trouble-making ways.
Benson's hard-nosed style fits well with the Patriots, who currently have small-speed backs left on their roster.