While the quarterback position is very much in limbo for the Dolphins, the rest of the backfield is just as much of a mystery. Both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams will be free agents, and neither backups Lex Hilliard nor Patrick Cobbs are starter material. Both Brown and Williams have reason to go elsewhere in 2011, but one was more vocal about leaving than the other.
Brown rushed for just 734 yards, 16 shy of what he needed for a $500,000 bonus. At age 29, he could ask for more money than the hometown discount the Dolphins would provide for the injury-plagued veteran. This is only the second time in his career that he played in every game, and he has been more open than Williams about staying in South Beach.
"I've established myself here. I'm comfortable here. I've been welcomed by the community," Brown told reporters after the season finale, but he did leave the door open to explore options.
We had heard during the season that Williams would be the one to take the hometown discount, a one-year deal to conclude his bizarre, yet productive career. But Williams sounded off on Miami radio last week about head coach Tony Sparano and the organization.
"It seems like now is time to move on," Williams said. "I was drafted in 1999, and this is the first time I've been a free agent. I'm excited to see what happens."
Williams, who had 159 carries this season, the lowest of his career (ignoring 2007 when he played in one game), was not pleased about his role, saying, "this whole season I haven't taken one Advil."
It also won't be easy for Sparano if Williams sticks around. Williams said playing under Sparano is "not a great fit for me."
So with Williams likely out of the picture, the Dolphins may be more willing to keep Brown in Miami. That said, they will still want to go after a running back in April's draft. At the 15th pick, Alabama's Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram could be available. It is not a RB-heavy draft, and Ingram is considered to be tops at the position.
The offense will undergo a lot of changes in the next few months, as it brings in a new coordinator. There also could be a whole new backfield in Miami in 2011.