Sunday, August 12, 2012
On Cedric Benson over Ryan Grant
By Kevin Seifert
Via Twitter, @molden86 voices what many of you have asked in the wake of the Green Bay Packers' acquisition of running back Cedric Benson, a deal made official late Sunday afternoon: "Why not just bring [Ryan] Grant back?!?"
After all, both players are 29. Grant has 605 fewer regular-season carries and knows the Packers offense far better than Benson at the moment.
Tyler Dunne offered a thorough look at the question earlier over at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. We're assuming it's the Packers who made this decision, rather than Grant turning down an offer. (We have no evidence of that.) Regardless, here are my two cents:
First, it should be noted the Packers gave Benson a one-year contract for the veteran's minimum ($825,000) with no bonus, according to ESPN business analyst Andrew Brandt. That means the Packers could release him at any point before Week 1 and not owe him a penny nor be required to devote any salary-cap space to his contract.
The money isn't as important as what it reminds us about this situation: It's fluid and easily reversible. We can't assume the Packers have decided to make Benson their No. 1 or even their No. 2 running back in 2012. They're in an injury bind and needed a significant fill-in should James Starks' turf toe injury linger for more than a few weeks. The person the Packers brought in had to be capable of opening the season as a No. 1 running back, but also be expendable enough to be cast aside if Starks, Alex Green and Brandon Saine are all ready to open the season. (Remember, that was the Packers' original plan when training camp began.)
I realize the NFL is a cutthroat business, but the Packers' decision to sign Benson over Grant could be viewed as a show of respect. If they bring Grant back, and that could conceivably happen if injuries persist, it should be as a permanent member of the roster rather than as an expendable insurance policy. Grant's contributions to the team over the years merit such treatment.
Second, it's quite possible that whatever led the Packers to move on from Grant in the offseason informed this decision as well. Casting personal affinities aside, we shouldn't rule out the possibility that the Packers view Benson as a better player. That assessment wouldn't exactly leave the Packers on an island in the NFL. As we start the second full week of August, no other team has signed Grant, either.
To be clear, these are just educated guesses. The Packers' announcement came after Sunday's coach and player access, so we don't have an official explanation or comment. We'll update the blog whenever coach Mike McCarthy or general manager Ted Thompson addresses it.