Should the Philadelphia Eagles Attempt to Sign Running Back Cedric Benson as Their Backup?

By Bryn Swartz

Heading into the 2012 season, the most impressive aspect of the Philadelphia Eagles might be the overall depth on the team.

At virtually every position, the Eagles have a good backup, sometimes even two backups, and that’s definitely going to come in handy when injuries start kicking in next season.

But let’s look at the running back position. I’m not satisfied.

Sure, the Eagles have LeSean McCoy, arguably the most explosive running back in the National Football League. He just turned 24 last week, and he’s never suffered an injury in his career worse than a broken rib (which he played through).

But there is nobody who I trust to step up if McCoy is injured.

Currently the Eagles have three players competing for one or two spots on the team. They are Dion Lewis, the team’s fifth round draft pick in 2011; Bryce Brown, the team’s seventh round draft pick in 2012 who’s carried the ball just three times in the past two seasons; and Chris Polk, who the Eagles signed as an undrafted free agent a few months ago.

There’s really no way at all to predict which player(s) will make the team. I would guess Dion Lewis because he was around last season, although his stupid arrest certainly didn’t help his cause. And it would make sense that Brown has a slight edge over Polk because he was drafted.

Regardless, I don’t trust either player as the team’s primary backup to McCoy. I’m not completely confident that McCoy will stay healthy for the full season and if he doesn’t, I’m not sure if it would make sense to have Lewis, Brown, or Polk as the backup. You talk about a significant drop-off in talent.

So what if the Eagles pursue free agent running back Cedric Benson?

Benson, 29, is the best available free agent, probably overall, not just as a running back.

He was the fourth overall draft pick in 2005 and although he was essentially a bust with the Chicago Bears, he resurrected his career with the Cincinnati Bengals, topping 1000 yards in each of the past three seasons.

But he’s also purely what I could call a dime-a-dozen running back. He’s not explosive and he’s definitely a below average starting running back (although he’ll probably never start again).

He’s exactly the reason why I hate the running back position. The fourth overall pick for a guy whose career has turned out so mediocre?

However, I do think he would be a good fit for the Eagles as the backup to LeSean McCoy. Essentially, we all know what that means. He’ll just about never play, unless there’s an injury.

Look at Ronnie Brown, who was the backup running back last year. He barely played, and when he did, he provided arguably the worst play of the entire season by any NFL player. Coming to Philly basically killed Brown’s career.

So I’m not saying signing Benson wouldn’t have risks. But I also think he’s a much better fit than one of the unproven 21-year olds we have on the team.

If McCoy suffered an injury, I trust Benson to average 80 yards on four per carry until McCoy is healed. I’m not sure that Lewis or Brown or Polk could do that.

I highly doubt the Eagles will pursue Benson but if they did, they could get one of the better backup running backs in the NFL for the veteran minimum.

This article was written by Bryn Swartz, the top writer for Eagles Central and a featured NFL columnist on Rant Sports. Bryn has written more than 1000 articles in less than two years as a member of Rant Sports. His blog, Eagles Central, was named the 2010 Ballhyped Sports Blog of the Year. To read a portfolio of Bryn’s best work, click here.

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