Miami Dolphins Free Agent Primer: Running Backs
By Brian Miller
There are two weeks left for the NFL and the NFLPA to get a deal hammered out before they realistically have to start scrapping pre-season games. Once the pre-season games go the regular season games won’t be far behind. The first game to go obviously will be the Hall of Fame game that is played this year between the Rams and Bears. Both teams will start their training camps, for now, on July 23rd. Without a new labor agreement, that won’t happen. Without a new labor agreement within the next two weeks and neither team will really have much time to get involved in free agency or even signing their rookies to deals.
Of course without a labor agreement in the next two weeks, the Bears and Rams will no longer be short changed from the rest of the leagues teams.
I read earlier that the NFLPA attorneys may be seeking more money from the owners VIA a request/demand that total revenue also include the sales tax figures from game tickets and other monies made. Which of course is ludicrous since no one but the government gets that money. It almost deterred me from writing anymore Free Agent Primer articles until this stuff gets sorted out.
But, thanks to the Miami Dolphins running back situation, I couldn’t resist.
It’s been said many time already, and not just by me, that the Phins anticipate being very active in the free agent market. Earlier in the week I stated that the Phins first priority should be the offensive line. Given the many surrounding question marks of the current rostered players. If, in my opinion, that is priority 1, the RB must be a close second.
The Dolphins, as you know, will not have Patrick Cobbs, Ricky Williams, or Ronnie Brown signed to a contract of any kind once FA begins. Thus it’s very possible that they will lose all 3 to someone else. While they added K-State workout Daniel Thomas to the backfield and have Lex Hilliard on the roster as well, the team simply doesn’t have that speed threat to compliment the bulldozer styles of Hilliard and Thomas.
Of Miami’s own free agents it’s really a toss up as to who they may bring back. Cobbs is not a starter so his loss will be the least felt although of the three, his locker-room presence is one of the best and of course he is very well liked by the coaches. Cobbs could be re-signed but even then it won’t be to start. Ronnie Brown I feel is the most likely to leave. The Dolphins have not been thrilled with his playing over the last two seasons and despite one 1,000 yard season in his career, mostly thanks to the first season of the WC, Brown really hasn’t stood out as the dependable back that the coaching staff has been looking for. Let’s not forget he was actually benched in favor of Williams two seasons ago.
The issue for Brown is that his career is not over so he will be looking for one final long term contract to finish up his career. The Dolphins won’t likely want to invest in that. Williams on the other hand only has one or two seasons left and despite the war of words following last seasons end, Williams would like to return to the Dolphins and the Dolphins may find him to be the best veteran option available should other players sign elsewhere or become to expensive.
DeAngelo Williams has been the most talked about free agent this off-season. The Dolphins management reportedly love the Carolina Panther runner. Williams was tagged prior to the lockout but a new CBA will likely eliminate that tag. Miami will have competition for the speedy back. In Denver, new HC and former Carolina HC, John Fox is in need of a runner as well. The Broncos have Knowshon Moreno but nothing else after him. Fox loves his running game. The Broncos also have a lot of holes elsewhere on the team as well so Williams may be luxury they can’t really afford.
Cedric Benson was taken two picks after Ronnie Brown in the 2005 NFL draft. After that, Cadillac Williams was taken making it the only draft in recent memory that featured 3 runners taken in the top 5. Of the three, Ronnie Brown has had the most stable career thus far. Benson did little in Chicago but flourished in Cincy the last two seasons. Now he too will be a free agent and it seems that the Bengals may be content to let him walk.
Ahmad Bradshaw has been pointed at as being the best fit for Miami’s offense and the compliment that Miami needs to Daniel Thomas. Bradshaw knows what it’s like to split time with another back as well. In Miami, the Dolphins would have that speed rusher with excellent hands out of the back-field. Last season Bradshaw rushed for over 1,200 yards. Still, the media have been the one pointing fingers at Bradshaw and the interest Miami may have in him. It’s all speculation because of course, no one from the Dolphins is saying anything.
Darren Sproles could come into play with the Phins as well. The team needs a special teams return ace and Sproles is one of the better ones in the league. He is extremely quick out of the back-field and is a major threat in the passing game as a WR option. Sproles however is also small and blocking is not one of his strongest attributes. If the Dolphins want versatility or if they want a complimenting back to allow them to feature Daniel Thomas as the starter, then Sproles may make a lot of sense.
There are a lot of running backs that will be available once the league year starts and the Dolphins are expected to be a major player for the services of one of those higher profiled tailbacks. Whether or not the team feels that a high ticket runner is more important that a feasible complimenting runner will be the question.