Dolphins would be ‘very excited’ to keep their top backs. Where things stand, and options

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Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said this week that the team would be “very excited” to have free agents Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. back in 2023.

So the Dolphins’ machinations at running back could be as simple as re-signing both players and tendering restricted free agent Salvon Ahmed, while adding another player or two to potentially replace free agent Myles Gaskin.

But with NFL free agency, there’s always the possibility of a curveball.

Thoughts, metrics and tidbits on where the Dolphins stand at running back heading into free agency, as we continue our position-by-position analysis:


The contract: Will be an unrestricted free agent.

The metrics: Mostert set a career high in yards rushing with 891 yards (21st in the league), and his 4.9 average tied for 11th.

Pro Football Focus rated him 25th among 63 qualifying backs.

What’s more, he broke a career-high 16 tackles. According to PFF, he averaged 3.52 yards after contact, sixth best among all NFL running backs.

As a receiver, he caught 31 of 42 passes thrown to him for 202 yards, with two drops.

He played 56 percent of the Dolphins’ offensive snaps; in San Francisco, he had never played more than 43 percent in a single season.

Miami used him on 25 kickoff returns, and he averaged 20.1 yards on those returns. His 1,595 all-purpose yards ranked ninth among running backs.

The future: Mostert was every bit as good as the Dolphins could have expected, and he’s very likely to be invited back.

It was obvious how much they missed him in the playoff game in Buffalo, when the Dolphins ran 20 times for just 42 yards, just one month after Mostert ran 17 times for 136 yards (8.0 per carry) in that Saturday night game at the Bills.

The only question is whether they can agree on a salary.


The contract: Will be an unrestricted free agent.

The metrics: His 4.9 per-carry average for the season (4.7 for the Dolphins, 5.1 for the 49ers) tied with Mostert for 11th best in football.

Pro Football Focus rated him 51st among 63 backs, which also includes his half season in San Francisco.

One reason for the low PFF rating is that he averaged 2.57 yards after contact, which ranked 95th among 143 running backs who had a carry last season, per PFF.

That’s surprising, because he broke several tackles after his acquisition from the 49ers for a fifth-round pick. Pro Football Reference credited him with six broken tackles in his eight games with Miami and three in his eight games with the 49ers.

He also had three fumbles.

As a receiver with the Dolphins and 49ers this past season, Wilson had 22 catches for 185 yards and a touchdown (scored as a Dolphin), with two drops, including one in the playoff game.

The future: Wilson started six games for the 49ers — before they acquired Christian McCaffrey — and two for the Dolphins, and he played well enough to earn an invitation back.

The frustration was that the running backs were not more productive in the playoff game, with Mostert sidelined by a broken thumb; Wilson ran 10 times for 23 yards in the wild card game. But overall, Wilson injected a spark in the Dolphins’ running game after his acquisition.


The contract: Will be a restricted free agent.

The metrics: Ahmed averaged 5.3 yards on 12 rushes, including a key 7-yard gain in Week 18 against the Jets that set up Jason Sanders’ game-winning field goal that sent the Dolphins to the playoffs.

But he managed just 3 yards on five carries in the playoff game, on a day the Dolphins’ running game was ineffective without Mostert.

Ahmed impressed Mike McDaniel and his staff with his speed and ability to adapt to this running scheme. In his two previous seasons here, he averaged 4.3 yards on 75 carries in 2020 but just 2.8 on 54 carries in 2021.

He hasn’t fumbled on 141 career carries. With that limited sample size of 12 carries this season, Ahmed averaged 2.41 yards after contact, which was 106th among 141 backs.

He always has seemingly been underutilized as a receiver. He caught three passes for 45 yards in the playoff game against Buffalo after having just one catch (for 8 yards) during the season.

For his career, he has 24 catches for 186 yards (a 7.8 average).

The future: Ahmed played just 35 offensive snaps last season, down from 205 and 170 in his first two years as a Dolphin.

But he established a foothold as Miami’s No. 3 back, was helpful in the Dec. 17 game at Buffalo and would be cheap to retain. The Dolphins can keep him by tendering him and matching any offer, if he gets one.


The contract: Unrestricted free agent

The metrics: Gaskin went from 2021 starter to essentially No. 4 on the running back depth chart in 2022.

He finished with just 10 carries for 26 yards and four receptions for 28 yards. All his carries came in Week 5 against the Jets and Week 12 against Houston. He didn’t touch the ball after November.

The future: Seems more likely than not to move on. He finished the season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.


The contract: Has one season left on a deal that will pay him $2.7 million next season.

The metrics: PFF ranked Ingold third of six qualifying fullbacks — second as both a run blocker and pass blocker. He allowed no sacks and no pressures in 41 pass blocking chances. ..

He caught 15 passes in 23 targets for 105 yards and a touchdown... He ran six times for 8 yards, converting a first down on five of them.

The future: Ingold did good work and seems likely to return. Ingold and tight end Durham Smythe both have 2023 contracts structured in ways that their cap hits would drop significantly - to $750,000 - if they’re cut. Both of their salaries are fully nonguaranteed.


The most expensive unrestricted free agent options include the Giants’ Saquon Barkley (295 for 1,312, 4.4 average), Detroit’s Jamaal Williams (262 for 1,066, 4.1 average and NFL-high 17 touchdowns), Las Vegas’ Josh Jacobs (340 for a league-1,653 yards rushing, 4.9 per carry) and Philadelphia’s Miles Sanders (259, 1,269, 4.9).

Dallas’ Tony Pollard (193 or 1,007, 5.2) sustained a fractured left tibia in the Cowboys’ playoff loss, leaving his market price in question.

The next tier of unrestricted free agents — from a price and performance standpoint — includes Carolina’s D’Onta Foreman (4.5 average on 203 carries for 914 yards), Buffalo’s Devin Singletary (177-819, 4.6 per carry), Chicago’s David Montgomery (201-801, 4.0) and Jerick McKinnon (4.0 on 72 carries for Kansas City and 56 for 512 yards and nine TDs as a receiver).

More reasonably priced free agent options include Kareem Hunt (123 carries, 3.8 average), Latavius Murray (171, 4.4 average for Denver and New Orleans), Damien Harris (who averaged 4.4 yards on 106 carries behind Rhamondre Stevenson in New England), Cincinnati’s Samaje Perine (4.1 on 95 categories) and James Robinson (3.9 on 110 carries for Jacksonville and the Giants). Of that group, none of the five would be a clear upgrade — or an upgrade at all — over the 2022 versions of Mostert and Wilson.

There’s also Seattle’s Rashaad Penny, who led the league in per carry average at 6.3 in 2021 and was averaging 6.1 in five games this past season before a season-ending fibula injury in October.

If the Dolphins use the 51st overall pick — their highest draft choice — on a running back, options include Texas A&M’s Devon Achane, Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs and UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet.

Even if the Dolphins keep Mostert, Wilson and Ahmed, they will likely bring a draft pick or undrafted rookie to camp to battle for a job. The Dolphins did not sign their only practice squad back, La’Mical Perine, to a futures contract after this past season.

In October, they released undrafted South Carolina rookie runner Zaquandre White from their practice squad; he received a lot of work in training camp - and looked good at times - but the team decided to cut ties.

Here’s Part 1 of my series on the offensive line situation.