Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller has 769 rushing yards this year, the 13th most in the league, and could work his way to his second straight 1,000 yard rushing season over the next three games. He is averaging 5.1 yards per carry, the sixth highest mark in the league, but the Dolphins continue to limit his use on game day. Two weeks ago, Miller had 20 carries in a game for just the second time in his career. A week later, the Dolphins limited him to 12 carries (which may or may not have been injury related, depending on to whom you speak). The up and down nature of Miami's starting running back's carries could factor into whether or not Miller returns to the Dolphins following this season.
Miller is scheduled to be a free agent after this season. He told the media on Wednesday, "It would be great just to play my entire NFL football career here in my hometown," Miller, who was born in Miami, played at Miami Killian High School, and at the University of Miami before the Dolphins, explained. Then asked about how his use, and specifically his carries, could impact his decision on staying with Miami or moving to a new team, Miller added, "It'll be a part of my decision, yes, just trying to see how I would be used and what type offense, what type of system that I would be playing in."
Dolphins interim head coach Dan Campbell has stated his desire to see the team run the ball more. He fired offensive coordinator Bill Lazor three weeks ago when it became clear Lazor would not change fro his pass-first, pass-only play calling style. Campbell explained the limitation this past Sunday to seeing Miller limping in the second-half of the game, and the team looking to protect him from further injury. Miller, however, has repeatedly stated that he was no injured, and that he just needed to get his ankle re-taped. Whatever the case, Miller heads into this Sunday needing 231 yards to reach the 1,000 yard mark this year. He will then have to make his decision on re-signing with the Dolphins.
Miller said Wednesday that the team has not approached him about a new contract. That does not mean a deal cannot be done after the season. The Dolphins will have until March to lock up Miller before the league's free agency period opens.
According to the Palm Beach Post's Andrew Abramson, the Dolphins are looking to re-sign Miller, though nothing has reached the negotiations stage of talks. According to Abramson, the team has approached Miller's representative and "expressed a desire to sign him to a long-term contract extension." The team could be looking to sit down with Miller's representatives after the season ends on January 3rd.
Miller, the Dolphins' fourth-round draft pick in 2012, is coming off his rookie contact in which he averaged $646,500 per year. Running backs like Darren Sproles and Toby Gerhart are earning $3.5 million per year, while Frank Gore and Shane Vereen are over the $4 million a year mark. After that, Jamaal Charles is just under $7 million a year, while Jonathan Stewart is making $7.3 million a season and Matt Forte earns $7.6 million a season. DeMarco Murray and LeSean McCoy are right around $8 million a year, with Arian Foster at $8.7 million per season. The jump from there then skyrockets to Marshawn Lynch's $12 million per year and Adrian Peterson's $14 million a season. Miller should be able to command somewhere in the $4-6 million a season range with ease. Will the Dolphins be willing to pay him that? Will the market dictate that Miller, a running back in the prime of his career with relatively few carries and a high yards per carry average, start moving into the upper range of players in the $7-8 million a year range?
The Dolphins have under-achieved this year, especially for the talent they do have on the team. One piece of that talent is Miller, who could become a special running back in the league if he is given the right opportunity. Will that be in Miami? Both sides seem to want to make it happen. It might just come down to numbers, whenever the two sides start actual negotiations.