The Miami Dolphins had major issues running the football in 2013.
A season after allowing starting running back Reggie Bush to walk in free agency, the Dolphins went with two young backs to shoulder the load for Miami in 2013: 2012 fourth-round draft pick Lamar Miller and 2011 second-round draft pick Daniel Thomas. The results weren’t what Miami expected, to say the least. The Dolphins ranked 26th in rushing yards, while Miller led the team in rushing with just 709 total yards and two touchdowns on the year.
So how do the Dolphins solve this dilemma with their running game? As I noted several days ago, the Dolphins need to make personnel changes. They need to add a running back either through the draft or through free agency. If the Dolphins go the free agency route, one name appears more intriguing than the rest of the crop — current Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden.
There are other free-agent names that appear interesting in the free agency crop of running backs in 2014, two of whom are Knowshon Moreno and Rashad Jennings. In the case of Moreno, the Dolphins likely won’t ever have the opportunity to sign the 26-year-old running back — the Denver Broncos will make it an absolute priority in the offseason to re-sign their starting running back. Jennings on the other hand, ironically replaced McFadden in Oakland’s starting lineup in 2013. Jennings ran for 733 yards and six touchdowns while McFadden struggled through injuries for most of the season.
Although the 28-year-old Jennings is an intriguing option, the 26-year-old McFadden would be a more explosive addition for the Dolphins. The six-year running back is coming off of a season where he had a base salary of over $5.8 million. He just completed the six-year rookie contract he signed upon being drafted by the Raiders in 2008. He won’t be making nearly as much money as he did in Oakland, and he will be forced to take a huge pay cut with whichever team he plays for in 2014.
The issue with McFadden throughout his career has not been production and talent — it has been injuries. Through six seasons in the NFL, McFadden has played in just 67 out of a possible 96 games. Furthermore, he has started just 51 of these games. During the 2010 season — when he was at his healthiest and most productive — the University of Arkansas product ran for 1,157 yards and seven touchdowns for a 5.2 yards per carry average. He also contributed 47 receptions for 507 yards and three touchdowns. His yards from scrimmage ranked as the fifth-best in the NFL that season.
If the Dolphins are to sign McFadden, they would be banking on him staying healthy — which is a huge question mark. However, if McFadden is to stay healthy, the signing could pay off in a big way. The Raiders running back is one of the more talented backs in the league. With a fresh start on a new team with modest expectations to go with it, McFadden could thrive in South Florida.