A Miami Herald report yesterday indicated the Miami Dolphins and Aaron Jones may have mutual interest in the soon-to-be free agent running back leaving the Green Bay Packers for South Florida. The Dolphins need to find a lead rusher, adding him to a backfield group that includes Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed, to continue to build the offense and give second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa another weapon. Jones would immediately fill that void and give Miami a 26-year-old runner coming off a Pro Bowl season.
Is it the right move? And what would happen after that?
Jones will be expensive. As Pro Football Focus suggested, a deal for Jones could require a salary somewhere around $12 million per year. That is extremely high for a running back, with only seven players at or above that mark according to OverTheCap.com - Christian McCaffrey ($16 million), Ezekiel Elliott ($15 million), Alvin Kamara ($15 million), David Johnson ($13 million), Dalvin Cook ($12.6 million), Derrick Henry ($12.5 million), and Joe Mixon ($12 million). After those seven, the next highest salaried running back is Kenyan Drake at $8.5 million.
There is never a sure bet when it comes to free agents. Will the production carry over? There are plenty of examples of a player leaving a team where he had success, then not replicating that level of play in a new place. The Dolphins would need to be skeptical of adding Jones and immediately expecting to see a Pro Bowl running back on the field. He could absolutely come in and dominate, but he could also take time to learn the new offense and would have to deal with a still-growing offensive line.
Not that other options are any guarantee either. If Miami does not sign Jones - or any other running back in free agency - the 2021 NFL Draft would be their next opportunity to add a player to the position. Najee Harris and Travis Etienne are atop the position group, with the potential that both could be first-round selections. Other players like Javonte Williams, Michael Carter, or Kenneth Gainwell could be second- to third-round picks. Again, they would have to deal with learning the offense, a still-developing offensive line, and, in addition, they would have to catch up to the speed of the NFL game.
What would happen to the Dolphins’ draft plans if they were to add Jones? It could make it much more interesting for the team. Wide receiver likely remains the top position need, but they could open up the target pool after that. Add a wide receiver with the third overall pick (or in a trade back slot), and after that, Miami could simply play the best player available game. Double down on a wide receiver? Sure. Add an offensive lineman? Why not? Love that defensive tackle? Take him. See a stud linebacker? That makes sense. Want to address edge rushers? Another smart move.
Miami’s draft could benefit from the addition of Jones.
Much of this offseason thus far, my thoughts on a draft plan for Miami was to select a wide receiver at three, then grab Harris at 18, using Miami’s two first-round picks to bolster the offense and to solidify Tagovailoa’s weaponry. Wanting to see what happens if I consider Jones on the Dolphins, I utilized the mock draft simulator at Pro Football Network this afternoon to see what would happen in the first three rounds if I am not thinking about running back. I did not accept any trades, just made this a straight-forward use of Miami’s picks.
With the third pick, I added LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. I love the idea of adding Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith with this pick as well, so this is basically a coin-flip pick for me, with Chase getting the nod this time. From there, I simply looked at who was available and selected what I think would work best for Miami, and it became much . With the 18th pick, I added Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons. The fact that he was still on the board at 18 surprised me and, despite also having a shot at tight end Kyle Pitts, I could not pass on Parsons. He immediately upgrades Miami’s linebacking corps and he should perfectly fit in with Jerome Baker and Kyle Van Noy.
After that, I used the 36th pick on Ohio State guard Wyatt Davis, looking to continue to bolster Miami’s offensive line and provide them with another crushing run-blocking interior lineman to pair with Solomon Kindley. I then used the 50th pick to add USC defensive tackle Jay Tufele. He is probably more of a 4-3 defensive tackle than a 3-4 nose tackle, but he is a run-stuffer, giving Miami what they need in the middle of the defense and he has the interior pass-rush capabilities to work as a 3-4 defensive end. There is some growth needed still, but he could be a depth piece early as rookie, eventually finding a role on the defensive line as a starter or key rotational player.
Finally, I took another defensive prospect with the 81st pick. Pittsburgh edge rusher Rashad Weaver felt like a good addition hear. Weaver is a tall (6-foot-5) edge rusher who has a lot going for him, especially as he now enters his second season post-ACL tear. He does a lot of things well, especially at the point of attack and getting past his blocker to harass the quarterback. He is not perfect, which is probably why he is available in the third round in this mock draft, especially if he is in pursuit mode against a mobile quarterback or a running back, but he does know how to set the edge against the run and he is a sure tackler if he can get his hands on the ball carrier.
Not caring about a running back selection made the mock draft a lot of fun and allowed me to simply look for whomever I thought was the best fit for Miami. Adding Jones, besides giving Miami a Pro Bowl player to lead a position of need this season, could open a lot of options for Miami.