Miami Dolphins should target James Conner in free agency
By James Reeve
The Miami Dolphins are expected to be proactive when free agency opens next week, and there is one running back the team should be looking to snap up.
The past few seasons have seen the Miami Dolphins lag behind in the running game, regardless of which quarterback has been under center, and with a new offensive-minded head coach at the helm their approach could change in 2022.
Before taking up the offensive coordinator position with the San Francisco 49ers, new Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel ran the team’s run game for four seasons between 2017 and 2020 – with the potential for an improved focus on running the ball largely expected for his new team.
This could be music to the ears of incumbent starting running back Myles Gaskin, who is entering a contract year in 2022, after two seasons of leading the way for the team.
Gaskin racked up 584 and 612 rushing yards in the past two seasons, but has combined for just six rushing touchdowns – leaving the Dolphins with a desperate need for a wider range of ways to get the ball into the end zone.
With free agency just around the corner, there is one player that could be available that could give the Dolphins an immediate upgrade at the position – James Conner, who most recently played with the Arizona Cardinals.
Conner is a two-time Pro Bowler with 65 regular season appearances under his belt since being taken in the third round (105th overall) by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2017, and he arguably had the best season of his career in 2021 after signing a one-year contract with the Cardinals.
In 15 games (six starts), Conner earned his second Pro Bowl appearances after rushing for 752 yards (3.7 YPC) while hitting the end zone an astonishing 15 times – second most in the NFL behind Jonathan Taylor’s 18.
The 6-foot-1, 233lbs back would be an exceptional addition to McDaniel’s team, competing with Gaskin for snaps out of the backfield and providing starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with a wider range of weapons on offence.
With the Dolphins working to acclimatise Tagovailoa to the NFL, the passing game has become the primary focus for the team and developing a better balanced offence in 2022 could help the team have greater success while alleviating the pressure on the third-year QB to carry the team.
Conner has a career average 4.2 yards per carry and has even shown an ability to be impactful on the passing game, with 375 receiving yards and three touchdowns with the Cardinals last year taking his career totals to 1338 and seven respectively.
With the Dolphins expected to make moves to bolster their offensive line this off-season, the offence should be able to perform at an elevated level this upcoming season and adding a genuinely potent running game should see the team have an increased chance of reaching the post-season after two winning records over the past two years.
Conner will likely be expecting to receive a higher paying deal than the $1.75 million one he played on last season, but even spending around $5-$6 million on him would be a worthwhile investment for a team, who have around $49 million in cap space and are desperate to become regular post-season fixture.