Benson to “Pack” a Punch for Green Bay
A 29-year old running back with several off the field issues is not exactly the portrait of a free agent that Green Bay General Manager Ted Thompson would sign. This is especially true with former Packer Ryan Grant still available on the market.
But place those issues aside and the Packers’ signing of Cedric Benson is not as surprising as many diehard Packer-Backers might think.
Benson is not a flashy tailback with the speed to consistently break long runs. He is, however, the type of short-yardage, in between the tackles, kind of runner that will significantly improve Green Bay’s dire inability to convert on third and short situations.
Even more to like about Benson is that he is durable. Green Bay’s offense tied for 26th in the league in rushing last season behind a crew of running backs that missed time with injury. Grant, also 29 years old, missed the entire 2010 season with an ankle injury and started slowly in 2011 before increasing his productivity at the end. But Grant has not proven he can stay healthy for a full season. This, coupled with the injuries in training camp to James Starks (turf toe), Brandon Saine (hamstring), and Alex Green (recovering from a torn ACL), make a back like Benson even more valuable to the Green Bay offense.
And with durability comes consistency. The former number four overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears has rushed for three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons and 19 touchdowns as a Cincinnati Bengal. Playing in an AFC North Division dominated by solid rushing defenses like the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, and Pittsburgh Steelers, these statistics are not just solid, but impressive.
Benson will not necessarily be counted on to carry a large load for the Packers this season and will most likely split time with Starks in the backfield. That is why signing a player of Benson’s caliber to a one-year contract for the veterans’ minimum of $850,000 could be a steal for Green Bay this season. Even if it merely provides depth and insurance, the price is right and the rewards could be great.
We may not see him until the third preseason game, but expect Cedric Benson to be a weapon that Mike McCarthy will frequently utilize this upcoming season to move the chains.