Thursday, February 21, 2008

Free Agency Preview: Running backs

This is Part II of my free agency preview for the Dolphins. Part I, detailing the options at quarterback, can be seen here.

The current situation: One of Miami's few strong positions, both in the short and long term is at running back. Granted, there are serious concerns about Ronnie Brown's ability to come back fully healed from his knee injury by the beginning of next season, but that really is not a big problem to me. Why, you might ask? Well, I don't expect Miami to be competing this season anyway, so Ronnie has all the time in the world to rehab this injury at the proper pace and return to being one of the best backs in the league. Backing him up is Ricky Williams and Lorenzo Booker. I would expect the front office to dangle Ricky as trade bait for an additional draft choice, but even if he isn't traded, he makes for a solid backup. Booker showed at the end of last season how effective he can be on third downs and as a utility/receiving back. He's a great weapon for the team to have behind Ronnie and Ricky.

So, with this position seemingly set, is there anyone worth signing in free agency?

Well, if Ricky is indeed traded (and even if he is not) it would be wise to sign another backup as injury-insurance.

As for the fullback position, I believe that Miami is set with Reagan Mauia.

Free agents:

  • Jesse Chatman: Chatman's career was resurrected last season with the help of Cam Cameron. Previously out of football for two seasons, Cameron gave him one more shot and Chatman delivered. When Ronnie Brown went down for the season, Chatman took over the starting duties, running for 515 yards on 128 carries. He also added 27 receptions for 161 yards. Chatman showed a lot of toughness this season, as well, playing through injuries and showing an intense desire to turn his career around. He's still only 28 years old and it would behoove Miami to bring him back for another go-round.
  • Michael Turner: At this point in his career, I think that Turner has proven that he can be a starter in this league. That's not something that Miami should be looking for in free agency, and certainly not for the price tag that Turner will likely command. He's a good player, but not what Miami is shopping for.
  • Marion Barber, RFA: There's already been some speculation that Barber could be involved in a trade with Miami involving swapping draft picks in the first round. Whether it's through a draft day trade or an outright restricted free agent offer sheet, Miami needs to avoid this guy. He is a phenomenal young running back, but the Dolphins already have one of those. The team must conserve its draft picks and the trade value that derives from them for the other much more serious needs they have.
  • Julius Jones: Jones is a solid back to have in a two-man backfield, and he could mesh very well with Ronnie. However, the combination of Ricky Williams and Jesse Chatman would be just as effective and at a fraction of the cost.
  • Derrick Ward, RFA: He's restricted, so it's not worth it to consider him.
  • Chris Brown: Brown is injury-prone and inconsistent,and yet he is still effective. In 2007, his DVOA was 17.9 percent, good for tenth best in the NFL. He's big (6'3", 220 lbs.) and young (26), and would be a solid addition to Miami's depth chart.

In my opinion, Miami should target either Jesse Chatman or Chris Brown. Running back isn't a real position of need, so I don't anticipate the Dolphins spending a lot of money there in free agency.

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