While most pundits had glowing reviews of the Dolphins’ 2021 draft haul, many fans were disappointed to watch Miami’s brass overlook the running back position for a second straight year. The 2021 tailback class was widely regarded as one of the weakest classes in recent years outside of the top three prospects; Najee Harris, Travis Etienne, and Javonte Williams. It seemed as if Williams would fall right into Miami’s lap at pick #36, but the Denver Broncos made a jump to pick #35 and stole the North Carolina product. Chris Grier did add RB Gerrid Doaks from the University of Cincinnati in the seventh round, but it seems unlikely that he will fill a larger role than that of Patrick Laird.
Grier and Flores have made it clear – they do not value the running back position the same way that fans seem to. This is likely the right side of history to be on, though. How many running backs are elite beyond their rookie deals? It is much more common to watch halfbacks deteriorate before and into their second contracts. Instead of spending draft capital on a back, Miami seems comfortable rolling with their current group, consisting of Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, and the newly signed Malcolm Brown. However, adding another low-cost veteran back remains a possibility.
Some once-notable names left on the free-agent market that Miami could add to their backfield for insurance purposes. Here are some potential fits for the Dolphins’ offense:
Todd Gurley (Falcons, 2020)
Gurley has been declining quite rapidly since his final season in Los Angeles with the Rams. The former first-round pick was one of the most explosive backs in the league for about 4 seasons, but he is very clearly over the hill at this point. Gurley also has an arthritic knee that will obviously not improve with age. He rushed for 678 yards on 195 carries while scoring 9 touchdowns for the Falcons in 2020. Gurley would likely come on the cheap and could be a veteran presence in Miami’s backfield. At this point, though, Miami probably would not view Gurley as much of an upgrade over anyone they currently have on the roster.
Le’Veon Bell (Jets/Chiefs, 2020)
Bell latched on with the Chiefs last season and rode their success all the way to the Super Bowl. However, he was mostly a non-factor in Kansas City’s high-octane offense as he carried the ball just 63 times, amassing a light 254 yards as a Chief. Bell carries name recognition and was rumored to have been in talks with the Dolphins before signing with KC, so there is some history here. Bell, like Gurley, is certainly past his prime, but his crafty running style could convince Miami to take a swing on him in 2021.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) May 6, 2021
Kerryon Johnson (Lions, 2020)
The Detroit Lions waived Johnson on Wednesday (5/5). The Lions had no room for him after drafting Deandre Swift last year and signing Jamaal Williams earlier this offseason. A former second-round pick, Johnson was never much more than serviceable during his time in Detroit. His most productive season came in his rookie year, 2018, when he rushed for 641 yards and 3 touchdowns. Since then, his numbers have declined steadily; he ran for just 181 yards in 2020 while serving as a backup to Swift. Johnson doesn’t do anything particularly well and is the epitome of a rotational, backup running back. The only thing he has going for him at this point is his age, as he will be heading into his age 24 season this year. Bringing him to Miami would seem a bit redundant as he does not represent any kind of upgrade and carries the same running style as most of the guys currently on the roster.
Here are some other running backs who are currently available but probably not worth kicking the tires on:
- Rex Burkhead
- Duke Johnson
- LeSean McCoy
- Adrian Peterson
- Frank Gore
- Dion Lewis
- T.J. Yeldon
- Chris Thompson
- Alfred Morris
Miami may not have an elite stable of backs, but they don’t seem desperate enough to reach out to one of the players on that list. So unless Grier finds a trade partner for a backfield addition that he’s interested in, it doesn’t make much sense to call anyone named in this article. Going into the 2021 season with Gaskin, Ahmed, Brown, and Doaks feels like the plan that Miami is most comfortable with, and I think it makes the most sense after not adding one via the draft. Running back is the most replaceable position in the NFL, and it’s clear that Grier feels the same. There is enough talent in the Dolphins’ locker room to receive healthy production from the position this year, regardless of what some Najee Harris fans may be screaming.