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Benson, Bengals could be headed for a breakup

Cedric Benson

Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson stands alone at the end of an NFL wild card playoff football game against the Houston Texans Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012, in Houston. The Texans won 31-10. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)


After the Bears bailed on tailback Cedric Benson following a series of run-ins with the law, the Bengals didn’t blink. (They rarely do.)

Benson was given safe harbor in Cincinnati, and he returned the favor with a string of productive seasons. Along the way, he signed two new contracts with the team.

Now, with his most recent one-year deal due to expire, it sounds like the two sides are ready to move on.

Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden explained to Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer that the plan for 2011 was to share touches between Benson and Bernard Scott. Unfortunately, Cedric didn’t completely buy in.

“The more you give it to Bernard the more you’ve got Cedric over there scratching his head and not real happy,” said Gruden, who signed a three-year extension and turned down an interview in Jacksonville for the head-coaching job. “Really, to me, on a good football team nobody should worry about who’s scoring or who’s getting the ball so long as the team is moving.”

The problem is that the Benson-Scott combo platter didn’t work as well as it could have, with a team average of 3.9 yards per attempt. “As many times as we ran it and as [few] big plays we had, it’s a major area to try to improve on,” Gruden said.

Benson acknowledged he prefers to be the workhorse. “I wasn’t a big fan of it,” Benson told Reedy. “Granted I don’t make those decisions or calls and I have to find a way to make it work. It was something they started soon after the first game. There was a vision where they saw the offense going. I may not like it or agree with it but I’ll make it work if given the opportunity.”

The question is whether he’ll get the opportunity, in Cincinnati or elsewhere. With two first-round picks, the Bengals could try to snag a tailback to combine with their young quarterback and receiver, creating a new-age set of Cowboys/Colts-style triplets. Or the Bengals could sign a veteran like Michael Bush.

Or they could continue to employ Benson for a relatively reasonable salary, since no one has shown strong interest in him when he has hit the market in the past. The fact that he missed a game this season due to a suspension under the personal-conduct policy won’t make him any more attractive.