There's been a lot of back-and-forth about Ronnie Brown this offseason. Is he an Elite RB? Is he injury prone? Is he the long-term answer at RB for the Dolphins? What's his trade value? Why would we even consider trading our best player? Will he hit the 30 year old "RB Wall"? All of these questions are legitimate and worthy of discussion, and all of them will help determine whether trading him now is the right move for the franchise going forward. I believe that trading him is the right move, and I'll try to explain why. Jump.
First, I'll address some of the concerns regarding Ronnie Brown. Most importantly, is the age/injury issue, and that doesn't work in Ronnie's favor. Ronnie will be 29 in December of this year, meaning he's one more season from hitting that magic "30" number. He also has only played 16 games in his career once, with 2 out of his last 3 seasons ending with an injury. I took a look at three "Elite" running backs that have just recently hit that 30 mark, and all of them show dramatic drops in production right around that age.
- Ladainian Tomlinson - hit 30 in 2009. Last 1,000 yard season? 2008 (age 29). Last season over 4 YPC? 2007 (age 28). LT's only season at age 30+ was by far the worst of his career, with only 730 yards rushing and 3.3 YPC, both career-lows. It was also the first season he did not play all 16 games.
- Edgerrin James - hit 30 in 2008. Last 1,000 yard season? 2007 (age 29). Last season over 4 YPC? 2005 (age 27). Edge saw his carries drop by almost 200 once he hit 30 years old, and he only gained 514 yards that season, although his YPC was actually higher than the last 2 seasons. However, last season, at age 31, he proved that he didn't have it anymore, racking up a pretty terrible 2.7 YPC on 46 carries before being fazed out of the offense.
- Shaun Alexander - hit 30 in 2007. Last 1,000 yard season? 2005 (age 28). Last season over 4 YPC? 2005 (age 28). After his MVP season at the age of 28, he fell harder than a fat guy on a diving board. The season following his MVP campaign, he only played 10 games, and finished with almost 1,000 yards LESS than the year before, and his YPC dropped from 5.1 to 3.6. This was at the age of 29. 2 years later he was out of the league.
Now, I'm aware that all three of those guys have much more carries throughout their careers than Ronnie (more than double for Alexander, almost triple for Tomlinson, and more than triple for James), but neither of them have the injury history that Ronnie does, so I cancel that information out. Ronnie's knee injury and foot injury are going to limit his carries to the point that he won't be able to get close to the carry numbers of those other backs. The main thing I take away is how drastic the fall of these backs was right around age 30, and that Ronnie is one more season from hitting that milestone.
Secondly, is production. Ronnie's production has been nowhere near Elite status, contrary to what many Dolphins fans will tell you. His YPC has been good, over 4 for his entire career, but he hasn't been able to sustain high carry numbers for an entire season. Brown averages 15.5 carries per game over his career, a much smaller workload than Tomlinson or James (20.5 each), and yet he still has not managed to stay healthy. He's only hit 1,000 yards in his career once, at the age of 25 (prime for a workhorse back). Ronnie has also had only 1 season of 10+ rushing TD's (2008, with 10) and only 2 over 5 (2008, 10, and 2009, with 8). Meanwhile, Tomlinson has NEVER been under 10 TD's for a season, and Alexander had 5 straight seasons of 14+ TD's. Bottom line, Ronnie Brown just doesn't produce on an Elite level.
Finally, I believe this is the last opportunity we have to get any value for Brown. He's 28, and might have 1 or 2 seasons remaining. He still has value to a team looking for a RB to make a Super Bowl run now (thinking Philly, Green Bay, possibly the Giants?). I don't believe he's the long-term answer for us, and I don't think he would have the same trade value after next season, especially if he suffers another injury. If we're able to get a 2nd rounder for him this offseason, I think we need to pull the trigger. I subscribe to the belief of "sell high," and this would be the time to deal Brown, a year early, instead of a year late. The same can be said about Joey Porter, and that we missed our opportunity to sell high on him following his huge year last season.
To conclude, if there is no CBA signed in the next month (severely doubtful), Ronnie is under contract for another season, and we don't have to do anything other than suit him up and hand him the ball. But if we want to get something of value for him before he hits that 30 year old wall, the time to do it is now. I'll close with a hypothetical poll: