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Brown, Williams in final Miami year together?

Since the topic of Dolphins running backs has been all the rage of late -- with one being constantly whispered about as trade bait and the other as a documentary star and possible retiree after 2010 -- I wanted to appraoch the topic from a different direction today.

From the team's perspective.

You see, seemingly lost in all the draft coverage over the weekend, Jeff Ireland's words while addressing the running back situation seem to have gotten short shrift. And they beg more attention.

Ireland was asked Saturday evening if he might have liked to add a running back in the draft and he said that 2010 is the last year for Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.

"Again, when you put a board together, sometimes the chips fall differently in certain drafts," Ireland said. "Obviously we’re aware of the situation on our team. You have Ricky [Williams] and Ronnie [Brown] kind of in their last year. We’re aware of all those things. We have them for another year, so anything can happen that way. The draft falls certain ways and you can’t help the way it falls. We’re not ignoring those positions by any means, but I felt like we stuck to our board pretty good and stayed the course."

I'm not going to leap to the assumption that Brown and Williams are indeed done with the Dolphins after 2010. The truth is no one knows what will happen after 2010. The NFL may not even play in 2011 for all we know.

But weighing Ireland's words with the facts currently before us, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Miami will be searching for running backs after this year because one or both of its top backs will be gone.

As far as Brown is concerned, he has yet to sign his restricted free agent tender. He would like a long-term deal but that doesn't seem imminent because, well, the Dolphins don't really have to offer one right now.

Brown, 28, has yet to prove he's 100 percent back from last year's fractured foot and has never proven that he is exceedingly durable. The Dolphins own his rights this year via the restricted tender they placed on him and can extend after June 1st if Brown doesn't sign by then. Trust me, Brown is not going to sit out this year if he doesn't get a new contract so he will eventually sign that tender if the Dolphins don't give him a new deal -- and as we just discussed their motivation for doing so is not high.

Bottom line is the Dolphins can keep Brown this year and decide to replace him with younger legs in 2011, if they wish. Bottom line is they have been willing to let him go at different intervals since 2008. Bottom line is his long-term future in Miami is by no means certain.

Williams is another matter, but one no less fraught with uncertainty. The Dolphins have shown a past desire to pass him Post-it note contract extensions, which is the reason he's signed through 2010. He has said in the past that he would retire following the 2010 season.

He said Monday he is "not sure" if he will retire in 2010 and that the hiring agent Drew Rosenhaus should not be interpreted as an intention to play into 2011. Whatever, the point is neither Williams nor the Dolphins know without doubt what is going to happen.

But we do know this: Williams will be 33 next month and so whether he's able to stretch his career beyond 2010 is not a certainty by any means.

So the Dolphins might be wise to take the approach that this could be the final year for both Brown and Williams. And if it doesn't work out that way, well, then something good happened that stretched the Miami career for one or both of the running backs.

Still, better to make the error on the side of caution.

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