Arian Foster visited Miami back in late March, still recovering from a torn Achilles. Now about a month away from recovery, there’s still a chance the Dolphins sign the four-time Pro Bowl running back.
Arian Foster is still recovering from a torn Achilles that he suffered last season in a game against the Miami Dolphins. Once he’s healthy, Miami could sign the Pro Bowl veteran to help add depth to the Dolphins backfield. Foster visited the Dolphins previously but a deal did not get done nor was one expected. The initial visit was more in order for each side to get to know each other. With Foster now about a month away from a full recovery, the Dolphins could be more inclined to sign the former Texans running back.
"“I probably need another month to get where I am, the person everyone is use to seeing,” Foster told ABC 13’s KTRK in Houston. “I can definitely play but I need another month to be where I want to be and be at that pro-bowl level I can be at.”"
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A week after cutting Foster, the Texans signed former Dolphins running back Lamar Miller at the start of free agency. There’s a good chance the two players wind up swapping teams. The Dolphins have made attempts this off-season to sign other notable free agent running backs but those attempts have fallen short. When the Dolphins lost Miller to the Texans, they turned to Denver’s restricted free agent C.J. Anderson. Miami signed Anderson to a four-year, $18 million offer sheet, and it looked as though Anderson was on his way to South Florida. However, the Broncos surprised many by matching the offer sheet at the last minute, keeping him in Denver.
After the Broncos elected to match the offer for Anderson, the Dolphins brought in Chris Johnson for a visit. Shortly after his visit however, Johnson elected to re-sign with the Arizona Cardinals on a one-year deal. The Dolphins also reached out to James Starks but, he too, re-signed with his former team in Green Bay.
Miami eventually slowed down their search for a veteran running back and decided to look at the draft to fill the position. Prior to the draft, Miami was not shy about expressing their love for former Ohio State back Ezekiel Elliott but he was taken by the Cowboys with the fourth overall pick. So the Dolphins decided to select Kenyan Drake from Alabama in the third round.
Like Foster, Drake has had a slew of injuries throughout his career. He possesses great speed but is still raw and is not expected to be an every-down back. Drake is expected to battle for the primary backup role and could be utilized as a kick/punt returner. Second-year pro Jay Ajayi has impressed the new coaching staff thus far and is expected to go into training camp mid-July as the starter.
Head coach Adam Gase recently raved over Ajayi’s work ethic, stating that “he’s kind of separated himself from the rest of that group as far as consistency.” Ajayi missed the first seven games of his rookie season because of a cracked rib. He finished the season with 187 yards rushing on 49 carries with a touchdown, resulting in a 3.8 yard average. Although his average would impress very few, most of that can be blamed on poor blocking from the offensive line.
When he received good blocking from the line, Ajayi was very impressive. Of course, you can pretty much say that about any running back at this level but Ajayi had a higher than league average with ‘good blocking’, even better than Lamar Miller. With the Dolphins upgrading their offensive line this off-season, Ajayi could have a breakout year. However, the Dolphins still have an overall inexperienced backfield and could benefit from the veteran leadership of a guy like Foster.
Damien Williams is entering his third season in the league and will likely be the Dolphins number three running back in the rotation. Daniel Thomas is back with the team for a third time officially alongside new Dolphins back Isaiah Pead. Both will have an uphill battle to find a way into the rotation and to make the final 53 man roster. Outside of Thomas, none of the other Dolphins backs mentioned have amassed even 200 yards rushing in their professional careers. Meanwhile, Foster has racked up 6,472 yards throughout his career with the Texans.
A Dolphins and Foster pairing could be highly beneficial for both parties. For Miami, it gives them the veteran leader they have been looking for and would complement Ajayi very well. The lack of experience Miami has at running back could be an overreaction by the naysayers but just one injury could create a major problem for the Dolphins. Yes, you may not want to point to a guy like Foster who hasn’t completed a full season since 2012 to help solve an injury scenario but Foster could benefit from a deal as well.
Should Foster sign with Miami, a committee approach highlighted by Foster and Ajayi would be expected. For Foster, it would be a welcome change from his days in Houston. Foster was the clear workhorse in Houston, averaging at least 20 carries a game for four of the past six seasons. The high workload can be to blame for Foster’s injury history. A committee approach would put less pressure on Foster and decrease the likelihood of him getting hurt again.
Foster and Ajayi have a lot of similarities in their size and as power runners. Together, they could be quite the duo in South Florida. Both have also shown their abilities in the passing game, creating a potential combo of dual-threats for Adam Gase’s offense. Even though Foster has yet to find a place to call home, other teams have expressed their interest to bring him in. Denver has already contacted Foster about the possibility of reuniting with former coach Gary Kubiak to add to their laundry list of running backs that includes Anderson, Ronnie Hillman, and rookie Devontae Booker. The Patriots have expressed some interest in Foster as well.
Personally, I don’t believe running back is a major concern for the Dolphins as some tend to believe. However, the possibility for injuries always should be, particularly with running backs. Should Ajayi or Drake be sidelined for some time, it could create a cause for concern for Miami in an area that doesn’t have a lot of depth to begin with. Adding Foster would help fill that depth even if he’s not expected to last a full season. A trio of Ajayi, Foster, and Drake, in the backfield would be a solid core of guys for Miami on paper.
If the Dolphins agree with Foster that in a month he’s back to form then they should do their best to get a deal done before someone else does. Having already visited Miami, it’s possible Foster likes the idea of joining the Dolphins more than any of the other teams to reach out. The salary cap is not an issue for Miami but what they consider Foster to be worth and what Foster thinks he’s worth remains to be seen.
Foster had expected to make $6.5 million in 2016 had the Texans elected to keep him as part of the five-year, $43.5 million contract he signed in 2012. With Foster turning 30 in the summer and his injury history, the Dolphins will not offer him anywhere near that amount. However, there’s no reason the two sides can’t come to a reasonable agreement. Picking up Foster would be a solid addition for a Dolphins team that has already had an impressive off-season so far.