Usually, in football’ when you hear the term “empty backfield,” it simply means five wide receivers are at the quarterback’s disposal. In the case of the 2023 Miami Dolphins, at the moment, they literally have an empty running back room.
Once the Dolphins lost to the Buffalo Bills during Super Wild Card Weekend, the contracts of pending free agents expired, including those of Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr., Salvon Ahmed and Myles Gaskin.
Coupled with what is one of the most talent-rich running back free agent classes in years, Miami will be active in their due diligence to re-sign a recently rostered back and/or sign a runner off the market.
Before anything is done, in terms of fishing in the pool of candidates, general manager Chris Grier and salary cap guru Brandon Shore have work ahead of them to get financially prepared to reel in talent and retain as well. A total of 31 players from Miami’s 2022 team enter the market, so there’ll be plenty of paperwork and number crunching in the early stages of the offseason.
Not only do the Dolphins have big contracts to hopefully restructure, namely Tyreek Hill and Xavien Howard, but there are also potential deals that could be made to send some contracts out, most importantly, cornerback Byron Jones.
Jones didn’t play a snap for Miami in 2022, and with a contract that’s valued at $13.5 million for 2023, it’s safe to say the sides could part ways. Even a minor deal for some sort of draft capital would be worth its weight in cap savings for the aqua and orange.
Looking around the Dolphins roster, there could be another candidate or two to phone franchises to see if their services would be needed. Grier has shown he has no problem being aggressive, with a dash of patience, and has no problem making multiple moves as swiftly as Michael Corleone consolidated his power at the end of “The Godfather.”
While it’s doubtful Grier and Shore will be handing out offers running backs can’t refuse, Dolphin fans should be weary of hoping for the premier running backs in this class. The New York Giants have a decision to make regarding Saquon Barkley, and a few more NFC East runners in Philadelphia Eagle Miles Sanders and Tony Pollard of the Dallas Cowboys could be wearing new uniforms next season as well.
Adding to this class is Josh Jacobs, Kareem Hunt, David Montgomery, Jamaal Williams, Rashaad Penny and Jerick McKinnon. Moving a bit down the pecking order but more so in the aisle and price range of Grier and Shore, as they’ve proven, are names like Alexander Mattison and Devin Singletary.
While the luxury of having a running back like the top-portions of this list is welcomed, it may not be in the cards if Miami were to focus on their other team needs such as linebackers (they have five free agents from last year’s team) and offensive line.
They also have to keep money aside to extend defensive lineman Christian Wilkins, whose fifth-year option should not only be picked up for 2023 but added several years and dollars on top of it to lock him into Miami Gardens so his growth can continue into an elite overall defender.
And, of course, money will have to be kept aside and accounted for the quarterback position. Meaning, if Tua Tagovailoa’s fifth-year option is picked up, it may as well be an extension. However, if it’s not, huge money will have to attract a veteran signal-caller on the market, but that’s a conversation many wish to not have.
As the playoffs continue for four more NFL teams, the business of the other 28 won’t stop, and you can bet that Grier and Shore are already projecting and modeling the immediate future of the Dolphins.