A couple of days ago, we ran a Twitter poll asking how the Miami Dolphins should address the running back position this offseason (thanks Josh Houtz). The results came back with a plurality choosing to see Miami attack a clear need using the Draft (49 percent). That was followed by using both the Draft and free agency (37 percent) while just 14 percent selected using free agency as the answer to the running back question.
Miami has had a problem at running back for several years. As soon as they appear to have the answer - Lamar Miller, Jay Ajayi, Kenyan Drake - they move on from him, hoping they have the replacement already on the roster. Unfortunately, it clearly blew up in their faces in 2019, as Mark Walton and Kalen Ballage failed to replace Drake and Miami was left with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 243 rushing yards as the team lead for the year.
Which brings us back to the Twitter poll.
I would argue the Draft is a great way to find a running back of the future, but not the one that Miami needs in 2020. If Miami is using an early draft pick on D’Andre Swift or Jonathan Taylor, maybe they have their day one starter, and that could be a great move. But on a team with a ton of needs, especially along the offensive and defensive line along with quarterback, veteran running backs should be a consideration - and it likely will not be cheap.
There are players who are scheduled to be free agents, like Tennessee Titans rusher and league leader Derrick Henry, Houston Texans running back Carlos Hyde, or even Drake (Arizona Cardinals) and Miller (Texans), who could be targets.
There are rumors - in part fueled by a “bold predictions” article published by ESPN - that the Cardinals could move on from David Johnson, especially if Arizona makes a move to keep Drake. There is also talk that Todd Gurley could be available from the Los Angeles Rams.
There are running backs available who could be the immediate fix to the position for the Dolphins.
Miami is believed to be interested in Henry, and, should the Titans not tag him or re-sign him before free agency begins, Miami should make a hard push for him. Overpay for a running back this year if necessary, because you have the cap space. Use the fact that you have the money to get a stud running back.
This offense needs that.
Especially if they have a rookie quarterback they need to develop. Protect the early performances from the rookie, groom him, build his confidence, by running the ball. And, get a running back who can be the workhorse. Get the running back who can be the star.
Do not be cheap, because you do not have to be cheap.
This is not throwing a band-aid at the Dolphins roster to immediately win. This is an investment in the future of the franchise. Pay now to protect the quarterback. Use the fact that the quarterback’s contract will be set by the rookie wage scale to spend that money on a position of need that helps the quarterback develop.
I would not over pay in draft picks for Gurley, but landing a top running back for money that Miami has right now? I would make that move.
I will admit, part of this opinion could be based on the fact that I really wanted Travis Etienne, and now he is unavailable in the Draft.
But, running back is a position I would overpay this year if I have to, then get cheaper when the rookie quarterback’s contract moves from the rookie wage scale to veteran quarterback money. In an era where the passing game is the main focus and running backs are undervalued, Miami should learn from what former Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s 2020 season - Henry opened up the pass for the Titans and Tannehill immediately found success, with Tennessee moving to the AFC Championship game.
Miami has to find a running game. Use the draft picks to find the quarterback and the offensive line that will protect him and open lanes for the running back.
Use the money you have now to get a running back.
It may not be the popular answer among the fans, but it might be the best option for the team this year.