When the Miami Dolphins tried to sign running back Le’Veon Bell on Thursday, it obviously sent the message the team is trying to add talent. It sent other messages, too, but the point is nothing in the NFL happens in a vacuum.
Opponents see what’s happening.
Fans see it.
And players on the roster see it.
So while the Dolphins were chasing Bell as an upgrade at running back, the Dolphins running back room -- featuring Myles Gaskin, Matt Breida, Jordan Howard, Chandler Cox, Patrick Laird and Salvon Ahmed -- was paying attention.
And the message to those players from the team is obviously it wants better players. Coach Brian Flores in public is always complimentary of his players and willing to share how hard they work and how tough they are.
But, yeah, this week he was trying to replace one of those guys with Le’Veon Bell.
No Dolphins running back has complained about Miami’s attempt to upgrade. Competition is simply a big part of the business, plus it’s not wise to go public with complaints about your employer’s decisions -- even though Bell did exactly that with the New York Jets.
But at least one of Miami’s running backs is not thrilled right now.
To be clear, Howard’s displeasure might not necessarily be about the attempt to sign Bell, even though it would have significantly and negatively impacted him. But the timing of him airing his feelings is interesting.
On Friday, one day after Bell signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, Howard posted an Instagram story in which he said, “Can’t wait till I’m balling again, cant hold me down forever.”
Several Dolphins fans also reached out to me to say they noticed Howard deleted a photo of himself in a Dolphins uniform but photos of him in his Chicago Bears jersey remain.
Like I said, interesting.
Howard should be unhappy, largely with himself.
The Dolphins signed him to a two-year, $9.75 million deal with the Dolphins in March. And he was the team’s starting running back in training camp. And he was the team’s starting running back in the season-opener at New England.
Except Howard didn’t do much with the opportunity. He rushed eight times for seven yards against the Patriots. The following week he rushed five times for four yards. And the next game he rushed three times for one yard.
Howard this season has 18 carries. And only 14 yards.
His yards per carry average is 0.8 yards.
So he’s gone from the team’s starter, to a backup for short-yardage situations, to inactive last week at San Francisco. And he’s not injured because he hasn’t been on the injury report.
So he was a healthy scratch. It was the first time in his five-year NFL career that Howard was a healthy scratch for a game.
It’s clear Howard’s future with the Dolphins is already in jeopardy.
Because his contract guaranteed him $4.75 million this season. But he can be cut before next season and the Dolphins don’t owe him another penny and there’s no dead money on the salary cap. Indeed, the Dolphins would save $5 million by cutting Howard before next year.
So this all merits monitoring.
Howard isn’t happy with his situation and is hinting as much on social media. And the Dolphins obviously are not content after demoting Howard and searching for an upgrade at the same position.