Having obsessed ad nauseum over whether the Dolphins should re-sign defensive end Olivier Vernon and having gone crazy over the prospect of signing 31 year old veteran Mario Williams instead, Dolphins fans may be returning to sanity after a long weekend.
And, with that, we can come back to consideration of some of the other players that the Dolphins should be thinking about as free agency approaches, particularly their own.
Amongst those free agents is running back Lamar Miller. At 25 years old in May, Miller would appear to be exactly the kind of young player that the Dolphins should be working hard to re-sign. And yet, there seems to be a good chance that won't happen.
Well, money for one thing. The Dolphins have blown their available cap space on high priced free agents and, though they've created more, they seem to be hell bent on spending it on more of the same.
Having said all of that, I'm going to say something that may surprise you: I agree with the Dolphins decision to let Miller walk if they can't get him at their own price. The reason for this is simple: I think they have cheaper options that may fit them better in terms of what they want to do.
Miller is a wonderful runner. He's elusive, he's got good vision and he makes a lot of yards on his own. He, alone, is better than anything else the Dolphins have available.
But here's the rub: they drafted Jay Ajayi last year in the fifth round, likely with Miller's free agency this offseason in mind. Someone in the Dolphins front office for once was actually planning for something beyond the current season. Now may be the time when they should stick to the plan and allow it to pay off.
Ajayi isn't the running back that Miller is. For one thing he's nowhere near as patient and he's developed none of Miller's veteran savvy. Yet.
Ajayi is not without talent and he might be the better back in the end. Both he and running mate Damien Williams were frequently split out wide as receivers late last year, something that they were more hesitant to do with Miller. Both Ajayi and Williams did a good job, especially Williams, who had some wonderful catches and showed enough quickness in space to make him a hand full to bring down once he got the ball.
Both, along with Miller, did a good job of doing what they could in spite of some miserable offensive line play from left guard all the way to right tackle.
Add all of this to the fact that head coach Adam Gase preferred a two back system in both Denver and Chicago and the fact that he used Matt Forte last year as a wide receiver in the same way that the Dolphins used Ajayi and Williams, and you have a nice meeting of scheme fit and talent to work with in these two backs.
I think many fans now agree that throwing money around in free agency is not the way to lasting success. Teams that do that are constantly cap strapped, rarely win anything and, when they do, they rapidly fall apart as the reality that you can’t pay everyone hits home.
Long-term, every team needs to have a certain percentage of their performers signed as cheaper draft picks and undrafted free agents. They are the life blood of any organization that wishes to consistently compete.
In order to accomplish this, it takes planning and good talent evaluation on the part of the front office along with good coaching and player development. Now is the time for the Dolphins to reap the rewards of the former two while hopefully accomplishing the latter in the coming year at the running back position.
This column was written by Tom Shannon. Follow him on Twitter: @bearingthenews
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