The Miami Dolphins' list of players who are scheduled to become free agents in March is fairly lengthy, including starters, potential impact players, and depth options on both sides of the ball. We are working our way through all 18 of the players, trying to decide whether the team should re-sign the player, franchise tag them, or allow them to leave in free agency. We also give you a chance to vote on what you think the team should do
Lamar Miller, running back
2015 Salary Cap Number: $1.66 million
Expiring Contract: 4 years, $2.586 million ($646,500 per year)
Miller was a fourth-round draft pick for the Dolphins in 2012, allowing him to continue to play in his hometown as a professional after becoming a star at the University of Miami. In 2015, Miller ran the ball 194 times for 872 yards, a 4.5 yards per attempt average, with eight touchdowns, tying his career high. His career highs in carries, yards, and average came in 2014, when he tallied 1,099 yards on 216 carries, giving him a 5.1 yards per attempt average. For his career, Miller has 638 rushing attempts for 2,930 yards (4.6 yards per carry) with 19 touchdowns. He has five career fumbles. He has also caught 152 passes, gaining 887 yards with three more touchdowns.
The Case for Re-Signing
Miller has all the ability to be a star running back in the league, but he was limited by questionable play calling throughout most of the season. Part of that was the team's fault, as penalties and trailing on the scoreboard continued to make the team need to pass, but the Joe Philbin pass first-pass often type of offense also severely limited Miller during the year. Part of Miller's decision this year is going to be how the Dolphins - or any other team - would plan to use him, and if he is going to be a bigger part of the offense than he was last year.
How much would it cost to re-sign Miller? It depends on where you would slot him on the running backs list. No one is going to get the Adrian Peterson or Marshawn Laynch type of money, which pays them $14 million per year and $12 million per year, respectively. If Miller's potential lands him in the Arian Foster / LeSean McCoy / DeMarco Murray level, Miller would reach the $8 million per season level. Matt Forte and Jonathan Stewart are both above the $7 million a season mark, with Jamaal Charles just shy of it at $6.9 million. Then there is a drop to Shane Vereen, Frank Gore, C.J. Spiller, and Mark Ingram, who are all right around the $4 million a year mark.
The Dolphins offense - at least last year's offense - works best with Miller involved throughout the game. Jay Ajayai, who spent the first half of the season injured but looked good when he got into the game, could become a good running back, but there is something potentially special about Miller. If he leaves, the team is going to need to fill that hole.
The Case for Tagging
Miller may make the most sense of anyone on the team to franchise tag if the Dolphins need to use it this year, if they are willing to put up some big money. Running backs are not cheap when tagged. To lock a running back up for one year, it will likely cost a team at least $10 million, and could get closer to $12 million this year. That is hard to justify in today's NFL, where running backs are being de-valued, and it is hard to justify for a Dolphins team that is already needing to make some cap space this offseason. The tag is a possibility for Miller, but it is not a likely one.
The Case for Allowing Miller to Leave
Ajayi does look like he will be a good running back, and could develop into something closer to great. Today's NFL does seem to look at running backs as interchangeable, and Miami could look to grab another rookie runner, locking him into a four-year contract that would keep the costs down. Miller is likely to want to get paid this offseason, and if the money escalates too high, the Dolphins might have to walk away.
Re-sign. There are a couple of players who are scheduled to hit free agency which Miami should lock up early, not even allowing them to hit the open market, and Miller is one of those. If there is any way the team can work out a deal with their starting running back, they need to do it. This offseason is going to be about changing to a new offense scheme as well as filling some of the holes the team already has. Creating another by allowing Miller to leave does not make much sense. That said, if Miller is trying to land himself in the $7 million or higher level for a running back, the Dolphins may just not be in a position to spend that kind of money. The Dolphins should want to re-sign Miller, and Miller, who has said he would like to play his entire career in his hometown, should want to re-sign with the Dolphins. It will all come down to the dollar, however, and there is no telling at this point what the final figure will be.