Free Agent Target: Running Back

The Cardinals head into the 2009 offseason with plenty of question marks. One of those is the running back situation. Should the Cardinals play it safe and try to develop a running game within? Or do they need to dive head first into the free agent market and pluck some talent from another franchise. Tyson Qualls highlights two potential candidates to fuel the running attack in 2009.

Cedric Benson

Background: Drafted four years ago out of Texas, Benson was expected to stabilize a shaky Chicago Bears ground game. He showed flashes of success, but ultimately remained too inconsistent and was cut during last season.

After being acquired by the Cincinnati Bengals, Benson broke loose during the second half of the season. He contributed multiple 100-yard games and looked to be turning his career path in the opposite direction.

What to Like: Benson is a strong runner with a fair amount of speed. He has decent size (5'11 220lbs) and when playing to his potential can dominate most defenses. Last season he carried for 747 yards in limited action. If he can continue his recent rededication to the sport, he would certainly be a valuable asset for the Cardinals organization.

What Not to Like: A history of off field incidents may be a potential issue for the renovated Cardinals brass. Benson has a history of disappearing for games at a time and is often unable to maintain a high level of production throughout the season. His attitude would also play a pivotal role in the Cardinals desire to pursue him.

Brandon Jacobs

Brandon Jacobs

Background: A key component to the New York Giants trio, "Earth, Wind and Fire", Jacobs has shown an uncanny ability to find the end zone. Jacobs was drafted out of Southern Illinois in 2005 and has shown improvement every season. Last year he rushed for over 1,000 yards and contributed 15 touchdowns while splitting carries with two other running backs. He was drafted as a goal line specialist, but has quickly turned into a solid feature back.

What to Like: Jacobs is an enormous back who at, 6'4 264lbs, would bring much needed size and toughness to the Cardinals running game. He has proven to be a powerful runner who is extremely difficult to stop inside the ten-yard line. The Giants turn to him whenever Eli Manning gets out of rhythm. His 5.0 yards per carry dwarfs anything the Cardinals were able to produce last season.

What Not to Like: Jacobs has always worked in a multiple back system, so his ability to carry the load is certainly something that Coach Whisenhunt and his staff would need to look into before making him an offer. He has enough speed to burst through the line, but he has not shown the skill to consistently break long runs. Prying him away from the Giants may prove to be an impossible task. It will take a significant amount of money to convince Jacobs that he needs a change of scenery.

The Verdict: Both running backs could be the answer to the Cardinals' running problems. Jacobs clearly has the most talent, but he will undoubtedly come at a higher cost. Benson would be the cheap fix, but he could just as easily be a waste of much needed cap space. The Cardinals proved last season that they were no longer a franchise that should be taken lightly. The best move would be to put the cash on the table and gear up for another run with the power back Jacobs. This time with a running game to match the high-flying offense.

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