Who Will Help Tua Tagovailoa?
By: Euan Leith
By all accounts, the Miami Dolphins had a successful 2020 season. They leaped forward as a franchise to finish 10-6 and missed the playoffs on the regular season’s final day. Head Coach Robert Flores has a great thing going on in South Beach as they enter the new league year, but they could do with some upgrades on the offensive side of the ball.
Running back was a particular spot where the Fins lacked consistency. Five different ball carriers made a start in Miami’s backfield, and they had nary a single runner crack 600 yards on the ground or 1000 total yards.
Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tua Tagovailoa combined for five rushing scores last year. As a unit, the Dolphins running backs had 10. Adding a running back should be high on their list of priorities when free agency opens on March 17th, especially if the team wants to continue their current trajectory and make their first playoff appearance since 2016.
2020 team: Green Bay Packers
All signs are pointing towards Jones not playing for the cheeseheads when the 2021 season kicks off. Adding this type of three-down back to the Miami roster makes too much sense. There are ways to line this contract up to take advantage of Tagovailoa’s rookie deal without hamstringing the franchise’s cap space in the future.
Jones was a fifth-round pick in 2017 and will be looking to get paid in March. The former-UTEP product deserves a big payday after two elite seasons of production in the Green Bay backfield.
Wherever Jones plays next season, he will have the opportunity to produce just as impressive a statistical year. Miami is an ideal destination because they have a stable of complementary backs that could spell Jones as Jamaal Williams did for the two years.
2020 team: Seattle Seahawks
This may be the most unlikely candidate to take his talents to South Beach because I believe Pete Carroll wants to get back to running the ball and I think he trusts Chris Carson. However, should a divorce be coming in the near future, I think the 26-year old would be an ideal candidate in Florida.
He is one of five players all-time (and the first since 1996) to be drafted in the seventh round or later and produce multiple seasons of 1300 yards from scrimmage with nine touchdowns. Those kinds of hidden gems don’t just grow on trees. Miami is looking for something special in their backfield, and I believe Carson fits that mold.
There seems to be a popular narrative that he is solely a runner, but that is false. He’s one of nine running backs in the league to catch at least 37 passes each of the last two years and one of six that achieved that plus ran for at least 500 yards both years.
What I’m getting at is Carson probably doesn’t have the name value or national popularity that Aaron Jones has, but he can be a Jones-lite version. Plus, it will allow the Dolphins to save some extra cap money and still utilize the talent they found in 2020 with Salvon Ahmed and Myles Gaskin to rotate with Carson when needed.
2020 team: Carolina Panthers
Davis is my favorite running back to add to this backfield. Although it would drive all the fantasy football managers in the world insane, having Davis in Miami makes a lot of sense. Kyle Shanahan has shown how rostering and consistently playing multiple running backs is a formula for success.
Davis, Gaskin, and Ahmed could become a lethal rotation of backs in today’s NFL. They can all run and catch the ball effectively, and it would magnificently disguise the Dolphin’s offense from a player personnel standpoint.
Pro Football Focus projects Mike Davis to receive a two-year deal for about $4 million per season. If you’re telling me that I can get a back for two years with his talent and then spend those savings on the rest of the roster, then it’s a done deal.
Miami has the luxury of going in several directions this offseason. If they want to go big at the running back position, several candidates can fill that void. However, if they want to discount shop, there will be plenty of running backs available to pair with the two young ball-carriers they already have on their roster.
My final prediction is they come over the top and offer Aaron Jones a big check to make him one of the faces of their offense for the next few seasons. A legitimate running game with Jones will immensely help Tua Tagovailoa by taking the pressure off to deliver the goods immediately.