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Kelly: Targeting a bell-cow tailback would be Dolphins' "all-in" approach
By Omar Kelly,
Adding Derrick Henry or Dalvin Cook would add a new dimension to the Miami Dolphins offense that would make it almost impossible to stop
Don’t fall for the banana in the tailpipe trick the NFL media is trying to play on Miami Dolphins fans.
While I’ll admit this year has featured an altered approach to the franchise’s business practices, which started with the trade that produced Tyreek Hill, there’s no evidence that proves South Florida’s NFL franchise is doing anything more than conducting business as usual, spending big, which is the way owner Steve Ross prefers to operate in the offseason.
Miami typically is one of the offseason’s top spenders when it comes to big-ticket free agent signings and actual cash — signing bonuses and guaranteed money — spent on players. During Ross’ tenure, the franchise has been the pacesetter on contracts for half a dozen NFL positions.
And the Dolphins have made a billboard-worthy acquisition just about every year, which is the category where trading a 2023 third-round pick and a tight end not worth naming for cornerback Jalen Ramsey falls.
Keep in mind, General Manager Chris Grier has pulled off more trades than any other NFL executive since his reign at the top of the organization began in 2019.
Trades are Grier’s "go-to" move, not his "all-in" move.
Ramsey simply replaced the released Byron Jones, who at the time of his signing with the Dolphins back in 2020 was the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL. So Miami upgraded who is put on the opposite side of Xavien Howard.
DOLPHINS SHOULD TAKE THE NEXT, BIG STEP
That’s an impressive roster upgrade, but not this “all-in” move the media is trying to portray it is.
Adding talented by injury-prone former Titans linebacker David Long Jr., and re-signing tailbacks Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr. and Salvon Ahmed aren’t “all-in” moves either.
For this "all-in" narrative to be accurate, Miami would need to make a roster upgrade that raises the hair on the back of every NFL general manager and every head coach’s neck.
That move would be to balance out Miami’s big-play passing game by acquiring a Pro Bowl tailback like Derrick Henry or Dalvin Cook, talents who would balance out the offense.
According to league sources, Henry and Cook each has expressed interest in joining the Dolphins, if the price on a restructured deal is right. Money and location always is a major motivator for free agents, and players pushing for new deals and trades.
Both are Florida natives, and according to those sources each of these dynamic tailbacks would welcome the opportunity to become the tailback in an offense that features Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.
Knowing Grier’s approach of exploring everything with a conversation, the Dolphins likely have engaged in trade discussions with the Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings. And no matter who is added in the coming days, or what the team's cap space looks like, I wouldn’t take their names off Miami’s radar until either player gets moved by his current team.
Acquiring one of these bell-cow backs could be a move that’s on the table through the NFL draft, and right up to the trade deadline in October. It should be viewed as a finishing move, an all-in move that a title contending team would make.
And it makes sense for the Dolphins if the price is a 2023 second-round pick, or the equivalent of it, because of the challenges a talent like Henry and Cook would create to opposing defenses.
HENRY OR COOK WOULD MAKE DOLPHINS OFFENSE A TOTAL NIGHTMARE FOR OPPONENTS
What would be the right approach to defending those Dolphins?
Put eight defenders in the box to stop the run, leaving Hill or Waddle with one-on-one coverage every snap? Or flood the secondary to stop Hill and Waddle, giving the Dolphins a light front, which eventually would put Henry or Cook in position to make one man miss before delivering the big plays they’ve become famous for?
I’m not opposed to the return of Wilson and Mostert. That duo accounted for 1,283 of the Dolphins 1,686 rushing yards and six of Miami’s 12 rushing touchdowns last season. Hell, throw in Kareem Hunt, a free agent with the Cleveland Browns, and that trio potentially could deliver a top 10 rushing attack.
But none of those three have single-handedly carried a franchise the way Henry and Cook have for the past few seasons.
Cook has amassed four straight seasons of rushing for more than 1,000 yards, while averaging 4.7 yards per carry and scoring 52 touchdowns in six seasons.
Henry, who has averaged 268 rushing attempts the past four seasons, has been the main catalyst for the Titans success the past four seasons, scoring 81 touchdowns in his seven seasons.
Making the trade would put defenses in this challenging conundrum every snap, producing an “all-in” move of the offseason.
It likely won’t be what these Dolphins do. But it’s what Miami should do if the franchise truly is trying to raise the stakes in the AFC East — and a Lombardi Trophy in the next two seasons.
Without that caliber of move, this is just business as usual for the desperate Dolphins.