Besides adding a veteran quarterback to compete with Chad Henne, signing a starting caliber running back is the next virtual lock for the Dolphins this offseason. We may obviously be talking about something that won’t materialize itself until September or October with the way the lockout is playing out, but rest assured, rookie Daniel Thomas will have a capable compliment to share the workload with whenever the Dolphins take the field.
Who that compliment will be is where the debate begins. Most fans and even the Miami media agree on which back is at the top of their wish list. That back is former Carolina Panther DeAngelo Williams. I agree with the notion that Williams should be the Dolphins’ number one priority at the running back position when the lockout is finally over. He’s easily a top five back when healthy, and he’s the electrifying runner this offense is craving.
But there’s no guarantee the price will be right. I don’t think the Dolphins should make Williams the highest paid running back in the league by any means, considering he’s already 28. That may sound young to most fans, but 30 is nearly the new 40 in running back years. Backs usually hit a steep decline when they turn 30 or soon after.
Even if the price is right for Jeff Ireland, DeAngelo could always return to Carolina where he could be optimistic about the addition of Cam Newton, as he’s went on record saying how teams address their quarterback situation will be a huge factor in his decision.
Where would the Dolphins then turn? Like we speculated on Tuesday, they could always welcome back Ronnie Brown. But being that Ronnie is on the verge of turning 30 in December, has a long history of injuries, and is an identical runner to Daniel Thomas in many aspects, there surely has to be better options on the market.
Another back that could be on the Dolphins’ radar is Darren Sproles. Don’t get me wrong, I love Sproles as a versatile third-down back and special-teams ace, but he wouldn’t provide Miami with a great one-two punch. His career high in rushing yards in a season is only 343.
He has been right around 500 yards receiving the past two seasons, though, which would make him a perfect fit as a third-down back if the Dolphins were to sign an early-down compliment to Thomas or bring back Ronnie. But with Thomas being fairly unproven, I just feel that the Dolphins would be better suited to acquire someone that is capable of carrying the rock 15-20 times a game.
Enter my plan B for the Dolphins if signing DeAngelo Williams isn’t in the cards, Ahmad Bradshaw. The Giants reportedly have made resigning him a priority this offseason and Bradshaw would love to return to New York. But his counterpart Brandon Jacobs is scheduled to make $9.55 million in base salary in 2011, and if he isn’t cut, the Giants may not be able to afford to keep both.
If the Giants do indeed allow Bradshaw to sign elsewhere, the Dolphins should instantly become one of his possible landing spots. Bradshaw doesn’t come without a few red flags, as he fumbled the ball seven times in 2010, even though some argue that a fractured wrist was the root of the problem, and he is coming off ankle surgery for the second consecutive offseason. But ankle surgery certainly didn’t hold Bradshaw back in 2010, when he ran for 1,235 yards and 8 touchdowns, which were both career highs.
He also has plenty of gas left in the tank. At 25, Bradshaw is one of the youngest options the Dolphins could have in free agency and he only has 529 carries under his belt. And if Jeff Ireland is searching for a back with some big-play ability to be the ideal compliment to Daniel Thomas, few fit the bill better than Bradshaw.
Surprisingly, he only ran a 4.55 40-yard dash coming out of Marshall, but the guy is the definition of football speed over straight line speed. He’s lightning quick in and out of his cuts and has a second gear when he gets into the open field.
He began to make an impact as a receiver out of the back-field in 2010 as well, accounting for 47 receptions and 317 yards. He’s everything the Dolphins have been missing, but he’s also balanced enough to run between the tackles and pick up tough yards every now and then. And I think that’s the type of runner this offense needs.
As opposed to a back like Reggie Bush that can break a big play here and here, but shies away from contact, the Dolphins need two backs that can carry the load any given Sunday. With Daniel Thomas and Ahmad Bradshaw, assuming Thomas isn’t a bust, they would have two backs with different strengths, but two backs that could give you 100 yards any game. That is the type of running back tandem that is the most successful in this league, in my opinion.
But there are plenty of variables when discussing the possibility of Bradshaw coming to Miami. Will DeAngelo Williams come into play? What about Sproles? Will Bradshaw even be available at all? And we could have a long wait for these questions to be answered with the lockout. Until then, he’s a little taste of what Bradshaw could bring to the Dolphins’ offense.