The League

Doug Farrar

Doug Farrar

A staff writer

Low risk, some reward


It's difficult to say, but Larry Johnson might just experience a professional rebirth with the Cincinnati Bengals. When LJ was relevant and overworked, putting up 1700-yard seasons in 2005 and 2006, the Chiefs had offensive lines that ranked second and 15th in Adjusted Line Yards, respectively. In 2009, that line is just one more broken part of the Chiefs' desperate rebuild, currently ranking dead last in the NFL. Though Johnson lost most of his top-end speed and elite burst in his 416-carry season of 2006 (making him the poster child for Football Outsiders' "Curse of 370"), there's still enough left in the tank - just barely - for him to contribute behind a good-to-great power-blocking line, which is exactly what the Bengals have. I wouldn't expect 150 yards per game, and I think that rookie Bernard Scott will be the real deal if Cedric Benson misses any serious time with his current knee injury, but Johnson can do some things in a running back committee.

As far as the off-field issues, that's less of a concern here. The Bengals basically signed him to a half-year contract, and there's little damage if he messes up and has to be released for any reason. It's the Bengals who are doing Larry Johnson the favor here, not the other way around. And if Johnson has trouble getting that, he won't have it to get for too long. I don't foresee this signing as a return to the Bengals of old, when arrest records polluted half the roster. It's a different team, a different time, and he's just not that big a factor. Besides, he's playing for the rest of his career now. That dynamic has worked for Benson this year, and it should work for Johnson as well.

By Doug Farrar  |  November 17, 2009; 5:47 PM ET  | Category:  Cincinnati Bengals , Doug Farrar Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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