The Miami Dolphins have not one, not two, but three running back free agents that could likely be playing elsewhere in 2011. Ricky Williams seems to be, on the surface, the best bet to return to the team despite the end of season rant that painted the team and coaches in an ugly picture. Patrick Cobbs for all the coaching love that he receives could return as well but his limitations on the field may see him in another uniform next season. Then there is Ronnie Brown.
Brown, the 2nd overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft, has had one 1,000 yard season and his 6 years has been marred with injury up’s and down’s. Brown will be looking to sign a long term deal, likely to be his last in the NFL (last long term deal). The Dolphins have other plans so it is very unlikely that they will re-sign their former first rounder and instead allow him to leave VIA free agency. But where might he go?
There really is no way to foretell the destination of number 23 and Ronnie himself is resigned to the fact that he will not be playing for the Dolphins next season. In fact, during an interview I conducted with him prior to the first meeting with the NY Jets last year, Brown seemed cautious when talking about his future with the team and it seemed as though he knew then that last season was truly the last in Miami. You can listen to that interview here.
There are teams looking for help at the running back position but not many who are in dire need of 30 plus carry starters. That makes it an ideal situation for Brown as he will be able to continue his roll as a time splitting tailback instead of the featured back. Many believed as the season ended that Brown would end up signing with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. That may have been the case had the lockout not detoured the start of free agency until after the draft (or until the start of training camps).
It’s unlikely that Brown will join the division rivals now, especially since Belichick addressed the position in the draft and still has returning starters to the team. Brown would have fit in as a support back but it’s not a need anymore.
The St. Louis Rams have a need for a time sharing back who can take some wear and tear off Steven Jackson (and the fantasy players go boo!). Jackson is racking up yards but also racking up a ton of hits so the Rams seem like a logical landing spot for the services of Brown. In fact, Brown would add a bit of power to their running game as well. With Jackson hitting the outside and Brown banging up the middle, the teams offense could find another spark for 2nd year QB Sam Bradford.
Another team who might be in the market for a split time runner is the Detroit Lions. Kevin Smith is reportedly close to becoming a free agent and Jahvid Best would be the only featured back on the team. Brown and Best could make a workable duo on a young offense.
The NY Giants are prepared to let Ahmad Bradshaw hit free agency and that loss would leave a whole on their team as well. Again, it’s an opportunity for Brown to split carries on an established offense where he won’t be asked to carry the load.
There are other viable options for Brown, including teams like the Cardinals and 49’ers but Brown will not be signing a big time contract at this stage of his career. Time is what he will be seeking. The labor dispute left Brown attached to Miami last season when he should have become a free agent and likely would have made more money. Regardless of where he lands, his new team will get a solid if sometimes unspectacular runner who is one of the nicest and classiest guys in the league.