The Miami Dolphins are looking for a running back.
The Dolphins recently lost their starting running back of the last three seasons, Lamar Miller, to the Houston Texans in free agency. The Texans pried him away from the Dolphins thanks to a contract worth $26 million over four years, giving Miller the seventh highest average per season among running backs. That's not bad for a running back who has only once topped 900 yards rushing in a season. While the Texans now have their heir apparent to Arian Foster, the Dolphins are left with a pretty empty cupboard.
In the wake of Miller’s defection to the Texans, the Dolphins are now facing a huge hole at the running back position. Not only did the team lose the player responsible for the bulk of their carries, but also lost the player who finished second on the team with 47 receptions in 2015.
The Dolphins currently have Jay Ajayi, Damien Williams, and Jahwan Edwards on their roster at running back. Edwards has never played in an NFL game, while Ajay and Williams combined for a mere 246 rushing yards in 2015.
The Dolphins attempted to plug the hole vacated by Miller by signing C.J. Anderson to an offer sheet, but were rebuffed when the Broncos decided to match the offer and retain Anderson at the last minute. The Dolphins also missed out on free agent Chris Johnson.
Unable to replace Miller in free agency, the Dolphins are apparently looking at trading for a running back.
The Miami Herald's Armando Salguero reports the Dolphins are trying to acquire a running back.
The Dolphins have had conversations with multiple teams about trading for a back, a league source said from the NFL annual meeting Wednesday.
There are no specifics available as to which players the Dolphins have inquired about. But it is not believed a trade is imminent.
So this brings up the question: Would you consider trading Jeremy Hill or Giovani Bernard to the Dolphins? And if so, what would you expect in return?
Why the Dolphins might want Hill:
The Dolphins first attempt to replace Miller was with a big back in C.J. Anderson. Jeremy Hill would not only fill this role as a three down back who can score touchdowns, but would come with a cheaper price tag at just over $1 million per season. Hill could be a tempting option for the Dolphins, especially if they think they can get the Jeremy Hill who lit up the NFL during the second half of 2014.
Why the Bengals might entertain trading away Hill:
It's no surprise that Hill is prone to fumbling. His eight fumbles in two seasons as a committee back could be too much for the Bengals' coaches to tolerate. Hill also regressed in his second season, evidenced by his rushing average dropping from 5.1 as a rookie to a pedestrian 3.6 this past year. If the Bengals don't foresee an improvement in either of these areas, they could look for a trade to add draft picks and give Bernard a bigger role as the primary running back.
Why the Dolphins might want Bernard:
The Dolphins current inexperienced trio of Ajayi, Williams, and Edwards all weigh in at 220 to 230 pounds. So the lighter, shiftier Bernard might be of more appeal than a fourth big back. Bernard is also a good pass catcher, which is something that Miller also provided the Dolphins.
With Ryan Tannehill getting paid what he’s getting paid to throw the ball to Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker at wide receiver, and Jordan Cameron at tight end, the Dolphins presumably have enough offense that they wouldn’t need a workhorse who can carry the ball 300 times a season. In that regard, a shifty running back like Bernard, who could play on passing downs, and rotate with Ajayi in a platoon could be exactly what the Dolphins need.
Why the Bengals might entertain trading away Bernard:
There are many reasons why the Bengals might consider trading Bernard. He is in the last year of his rookie contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2016 season. With C.J. Spiller, C.J. Anderson, and Shane Vereen making at least $4 million per season, Bernard could probably command at least that much, if not around $5 million per year on the open market. Instead of waiting for him to leave as a free agent, a trade would bring in value for him before losing him in 12 months.
Why the Dolphins might prefer a trade over a rookie running back via the draft:
The 2016 draft doesn’t seem to be loaded with elite running back prospects. Only Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott and Alabama’s Derrick Henry are generally considered to be worthy of sniffing round one. They are also the only two running backs who seem to be candidates to step in and become your team’s starting back on day one. But pick No. 13 might be a bit too rich for taking a running back, while #42 overall might be too late to grab either of the two best options.
Also, with the unpredictable nature of the draft, there is no way for the Dolphins to know how good a rookie will be until they start actually working with him. Acquiring a running back in a trade assures them of having the spot filled on the roster. Also, with their entire backfield being such an unknown, there is something to be said for bringing in a known commodity in a trade.
"The reason we were trying to do that is we're looking to having more than one guy," Dolphins new head coach Adam Gase told the Miami Herald about the team's running back situation. "Jay is going to be a big part of what we're doing. I'd like to have multiple backs. Right now, we don't have a lot of guys on the roster. I think we only have three guys on the roster right now. We're going to need to really develop that stable of backs."
What would the Bengals expect in return for Bernard or Hill?
Considering that the Bengals used a second round pick on both Hill and Bernard, it seems hard to imagine that they would give up either running back for anything less than that. They would probably seek a first round pick, or a pair of picks involving a second round pick, plus another asset.
If the Bengals were to trade away Hill or Bernard, it would not be a case where the player is a bust and/or too costly, and the team is just looking to unload an unwanted player. Instead, it would be a case where the team is looking to get a good return. Would this price be too steep for a team like the Dolphins, desperate for a running back? Maybe. But considering they just gave up a higher draft spot for the right to acquire bad contracts from the Eagles, who knows with the Dolphins will do. It never hurts to pick up the phone and ask - or answer the phone if the Dolphins call.