Green Bay Packers: What Cedric Benson Signing Means for the Team

Colby LanhamCorrespondent IAugust 12, 2012

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 01:  Cedric Benson #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs the football upfield during the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium on January 1, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  The Ravens defeated the Bengals 24-16.  (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
John Grieshop/Getty Images

For all of Packers general manager Ted Thompson's usual lack of moves in free agency, 2012 has been the busiest offseason of bigger name signings.

There was Anthony Hargrove, Jeff Saturday and the underachieving Philip Merling. The Packers can now add running back Cedric Benson to that list.

After going through the first part of camp and watching the Packers running back corps get hit with injury (Brandon Saine), struggling to catch and hold onto the football (James Starks) and slowly returning from a previous injury (Alex Green), the Packers have made a move by signing the veteran runner to a young running back corps.

What does this move mean for the Packers now when, just two years ago, they went into the season with H-Back John Kuhn as a running back when injuries hit?

It could mean that, on one hand, Benson was added to step up the competition at running back with Starks struggling to both catch and protect the football.

But rather than re-sign Ryan Grant, who is still a free agent, the Packers went with Benson, who, in 2011, rushed for 1,067 yards and six touchdowns, showing that he still may have a little left in the tank.

It could also mean the Packers go back to a running back by committee approach like last season, splitting most of the carries between Starks and Benson. The Packers running backs have been inconsistent in their pass protection thus far, and Benson could be that pass protecting back that Green Bay was missing so far in training camp, with second-year back Brandon Saine proving the most reliable in this aspect.

No matter how you look at it, this certainly shakes up the roster on offense. With a crowd at wide receiver and tight end, it is possible that the Packers now keep four running backs. With Starks, Green and Saine thought to be the main three guys to make the roster going into camp, Benson's signing certainly makes it seem that the Packers will keep four running backs.

But it also may affect the possibility of the Packers keeping six receivers or more than three tight ends, given the crowd they have at both and the fact that they kept five tight ends a season ago.

The fact that they chose Benson over Grant certainly means that they value his production over Grant's at this point, as they are both 29 and getting close to the other side of 30, the age where the NFL running back tends to decline. 

But because of Benson's past and recent production, the Benson signing is certainly beneficial, and one that the Packers needed to boost their running back corps in training camp.