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Miami Dolphins free agency 2017: Damien Williams tender, tag, or walk

New York Jets v Miami Dolphins Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

What a crazy week. The Miami Dolphins appear to have traded for Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Julius Thomas, though that deal cannot be official until March 9, they are at least close to sending left tackle Branden Albert to Jacksonville in a separate trade, and they signed seven free agents, six of whom are all-time greats for the team, allowing them to retire (re-retire?) as members of the franchise. Now, we jump back to looking at our re-sign, tag, or walk series.

After completing all of Miami’s soon-to-be exclusive rights free agents in the series, we pick up again with restricted free agents. RFAs are players who have three years of service in the NFL, meaning they do not reach the four-year minimum for unrestricted free agency, but they have exceeded the exclusive rights threshold. Restricted free agents can be given one of three tender levels, giving the original team the ability to receive compensation if the player is signed by a new team. The three levels are a “first-round” tender, a “second-round” tender, and an “original round” tender; if the player signs with a new club, that club must send the associated compensation to the original team, with the “original round” matching whichever round in which the player was selected during the respective NFL Draft. An undrafted player would not provide compensation back to the original club if he is given the “original round” tender.

Tenders are guaranteed one-year contracts, but are relatively low-salaried amounts for the season. Basically, restricted free agents are able to move to a new club like an unrestricted free agent, but there is compensation that may restrict a new club from making an offer.

NFL free agency begins at 4pm ET on March 9. Anyone who is not under contract for the 2017 season will be able to begin signing with new teams - barring any restricted free agent tenders that have been placed on players with less than four years of service time in the league. Over the next few weeks, teams all across the league will be trying to re-sign their own players to new contracts in an effort to prevent players they want to keep from testing the open market.

The Dolphins have 20 players about whom they need to make decisions. We have been asking you as fans of the team to provide your thoughts on what the Dolphins should do for each of their upcoming free agents. We break down the history of the player, what they did for the team in 2016, the terms of their expiring contract, the estimated value for the franchise tag, and then as you to vote on the decision the team should make.

Today, our series moves to running back Damien Williams. The amounts for each tender have not been released for 2017, but the 2016 values were set at $3.6 million for the first-round, $2.6 million for the second-round, and $1.7 million for the lowest tender.

Player history

Williams signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2014 coming out of Oklahoma. He appeared in all 32 games in his first two seasons, working both on offense and on special teams. He tallied 52 rushes combined in 2014 and 2015, with 181 yards, as well as 42 receptions for 329 yards and two touchdowns. He also returned 26 kickoffs over those two years, averaging 21.5 yards per return.

2016 Season

Williams worked in the Miami platoon of running backs for much of the year, primarily serving as the second- or third-option on the depth chart, especially after Jay Ajayi established himself as the primary runner. Williams carried the ball 35 times for 115 yards with his first three rushing touchdowns during the year, as well as picking up 249 yards and another three touchdowns on 23 pass receptions. He returned three kickoffs for a 10.7 yards per attempt average.


WIlliams’ expiring contract is a three-year, $1.5 million contract (via His 2016 salary cap number was $601,168.

Franchise tag

The franchise tag is not a reasonable option for a restriced free agent.

The Phinsider thoughts

Williams has proven to be an effective option out of the backfield, able to spell Ajayi and to work as a third-down type of running back. He has the ability to continue to grow into his role on the offense. He was good throughout the year, though his fumble in the Wildcard Playoff game was painful. He should be retained by Miami.

Fan vote

What should the Dolphins do with Williams? Vote below and feel free to discuss in the comments.

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