The Reggie Bush that is looking for a new contract (likely with the Miami Dolphins) is different (I think better) than any version of Bush that we have seen before. Word out of Florida is that the Dolphins will look to re-up with their 2011 and 2012 leading rusher.
In each of his two seasons in Miami he has made $5 mill per season. Even though he did put up career numbers as a Dolphin he likely will be required to take a pay cut.
Bush was #16 in the NFL for yards from scrimmage in 2011, and #15 this season. In his career he has had 998+ yards from scrimmage four times (twice to begin his career, and also the last two seasons). Half of the teams in the NFL have a player with even more explosiveness/skills than Bush, and half do not.
If you are Miami then you likely have not seen enough from either (or the thunder/lightning combo of) Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller to think that you have an in-house replacement if you allow Bush to seek employment elsewhere. Miami will spend a combined $1.5 million on Thomas and Miller in 2013. If you can get Bush in the $4 million neighborhood then you are spending similar money on running backs going forward as you had been.
For running backs who are signed in 2013 Adrian Peterson is the highest paid at $11,250,000. Chris Johnson is at $10 million so ironically it is good that he had a strong middle of the season (including a big game vs Miami) so that his yards from scrimmage is better than Bush’s. Miami GM Jeff Ireland would not want Bush and his representative’s to be able to hold Miami to CJ2K’s contract standards as that double-digit millions price-tag is nowhere near what Miami’s offer would be.
Marshawn Lynch is at $7 million for 2013. Darren McFadden is at $6 mill, and Arian Foster and Maurice Jones-Drew are at $5 mill. Foster and MJD in particular could drive down Bush’s annual pay.
Miami will likely want to use Ahmad Bradshaw and his $3.75 million in 2013 as their neighborhood. Bush has been good enough with Miami, and he sets a great example with his work ethic, to the point where I would be comfortable anywhere from $4-$5 million annually for Bush.
We are likely to see Miami look for Bush to take less than the $5 mill annually he has been getting in South Beach, but they cannot play hard ball as if they do lose out on Bush the free-agent (or in-house) replacements leave a lot to be desired.
Rashard Mendenhall, Peyton Hillis, Felix Jones, Shonn Greene, Danny Woodhead, and Bernard Scott are the only notable free-agent running backs. That looks like a bare cupboard to me. I would kick the tires on Hillis and Greene to see if their disappointing 2012′s have made them affordable, but I would do that in addition to re-signing Bush (Hillis or Greene, or long shot Steven Jackson, are my fingers-crossed wish list players to replace the underwhelming Thomas…Any/all of them may have price-tags that are not worth it though).
Bush’s production up the middle and to the left took steps backwards in 2012 from 2011, but it is still worth noting that Bush wanted to use his playing time in Miami to prove that he could be an every-down running back (I do think he accomplished that).
We will follow Bush’s free-agency very closely. For me, anything under $5 million annually should be a go, but anything north of $5 mill per season would make me look at different options if I were the Dolphins.