Bengals will have their shot at Michael Bush

Raiders running back Michael Bush is now expected to hit the free-agent market on March 13 after Oakland used its franchise tag on strong safety Tyvon Branch.

The only way the cap-strapped Raiders would've kept Bush was putting the franchise tag on their backup running back. Now, Bush can look for a starting job elsewhere because he won't be the top back with Darren McFadden in Oakland.

I can see Bush coming to the Cincinnati. The Bengals want to improve over last year's starter, Cedric Benson. They have the salary-cap room to lure the free agents that they want. They offer Bush a chance to play near his hometown of Louisville. And they have new assistant Hue Jackson, who was Bush's head coach last season in Oakland.

Bush would become the Bengals' No. 1 back, but he wouldn't carry the entire load. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is leaning toward using a running-back-by-committee, which should suit Bush. After running for 100 yards in back-to-back weeks, he seemed to wear down in his final six games, averaging 63 yards on the ground.

At 27, Bush doesn't have the usual wear-and-tear of other free-agent running backs because he's been a backup for most of his career. He's a bruising runner who can gain the tough yards. He's also an above-average receiver, which would add another element to the Bengals' passing game.

"He's big, he runs hard, he's fast, and when you get him to the second level he's extremely hard to tackle," Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said of Bush last year. "He can catch also. I forgot to mention that. He's the total package."

The other division team who could show interest in Bush is Cleveland. But it appears like the Browns will first attempt to re-sign Peyton Hillis at a reasonable price.