I got a message this week that said the Miami Dolphins had an interest in signing former Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner. My initial reaction was, “James Conner?” I’m sure that was everyone’s reaction.
As the Dolphins get closer to taking the next step as a franchise, many big-named free agents have been rumored to Miami. I think my initial reason was so “meh” because former Green Bay Packers running back did not receive the franchise tag and will officially become a free agent on Monday. Jones should be a priority for the Dolphins, and I would pay him the big money he is looking for.
However, then I started to really think about Conner. If Jones picks another team, or the money is too much for Miami, or any other reason Jones doesn’t become a Dolphin, then maybe Conner isn’t such a bad backup plan.
According to ESPN’s John Clayton, Miami should be able to sign him for a cheap contact, nothing more than $3-$4 million per year. That’s a big plus in my eyes because you add a starting running back for cheap and then can spend big somewhere else.
If signing Conner meant Miami could also sign free agent center Corey Linsley, who should be Miami’s No. 1 free agent target, and sign the wide receiver they need most JuJu Smith-Schuster, then I’m all for it.
Getting Conner so cheap would also allow the Dolphins to let the draft play out. They could sit at 36, and if one of the running backs they love drops there, they can take him. Signing Conner wouldn’t stop them from drafting a running back early, but it would help them not reach on one.
A combination of Conner and Myles Gaskin would not be the worst combination in the world. When Conner is healthy, he is an elite running back, but that’s the problem; he can never stay healthy, so it’s impossible to say he’s elite anymore. If the Dolphins did go into Sundays with Conner and Gaskin, they would be okay. That is more than enough at running back in the NFL, and if Miami has an elite offensive line, they will get production from those two guys.
Signing Conner over Jones would sting a little, but not if the Dolphins understood the flexibility it would give them, and they took advantage of that. I would be okay with a Conner/Gaskin combo heading into a season, but then pair that with a 2021 early-round running back, and you also added two big named free agents because of it, and you have my attention.