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Oregon's Kenjon Barner is someone that the Bengals could target in April's NFL Draft
Historically, the Bengals have struggled with the running back position. With the exception of Corey Dillon and maybe Rudi Johnson, Cincinnati has been laden with mediocre running backs the last 15 years.
Of the five running backs on the 2012 roster, only two of them are scheduled to return in 2013. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Dan Herron both have contracts through the 2013 season but Bernard Scott, Cedric Peerman and Brian Leonard do not.
Given the style of the Bengals offense and how it seems that offensive coordinator Jay Gruden will be returning to Cincinnati, the running back position is certainly one that needs to be addressed. And with the most predicted cap space in the NFL for 2013, the running back position is one in which they could certainly throw around some weight.
Green-Ellis still has two years left on his contract and considering he rushed for 1,000 yards in 2012, it’s not likely that he’s going anywhere. However, he was inconsistent throughout the whole season, had all of his career fumbles in 2012 and hurt his hamstring during warmups late in the season. It would be wise of the Bengals to address the running back position despite the fact that the Law Firm will account for $3 million in cap space in 2013.
Addressing this position can come in one of three ways: the NFL Draft in April, free agency or sticking with what they’ve got.
First off, what type of running back are they looking for? It seems that the Bengals' player personnel department has been much improved the last few years, making much more sensible drafts and trades; transactions that led to wins.
The type of player they should be looking for is a dynamic back that can run between the tackles when needed, has the speed to find the corner of the play and turn it up, and can catch the ball out of the backfield.
Draft TrackerShould the Bengals decide to look in the NFL Draft, there are a handful of players that would likely fit the mold. With picks 21, 37 and 55, the Bengals have the money to bring in a big time player in the first two rounds. Two players that stick out and would fit within the scheme of the offense are Oregon’s Kenjon Barner and South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore.
Other running backs like Alabama’s Eddie Lacy could also be options however the Bengals need to get away from the “bruiser” type running backs. Lattimore could fall because of his knee injury in college, making him a steal in one of the middle rounds.
Should the Bengals decide to look at free agency, there are a few players that would also contribute immediately. The first, and most notable, is Reggie Bush. Bush’s contract with the Dolphins expires in 2013 and his abilities and skill set would work perfectly with Dalton and the offense. Also, Danny Woodhead and Javon Ringer are other NFL free agents that would be good additions.
All in all, the running back position is one where the Bengals need to be generous; especially given their financial wiggle room this off-season. If the Bengals were to keep any of the free agent running backs on the roster, I would keep Brian Leonard because he possesses that skill set to run the ball as well as receive, he’s been with the club since 2009 and he can help lead the young guys.
Green-Ellis and Dan Herron account for $3.48M in 2013. In order for the Bengals to make serious moves as a team, they need to make serious moves at running back. Last year they spent $5.5M at the running back position.
Amount of cap space dedicated to running backs in 2013: $8M-$10M