The recurring theme I hear when fans and some journalists speak of the Dolphins' running back options going forward is, sorry to tell you, often myopic at best. Basically, a lot of folks are just saying stuff without really knowing the facts.
For example, the group that blindly repeats the, 'Let's sign DeAngelo Williams,' theme obviously is not aware of the facts that could keep Williams from going anywhere in 2011. Those same folks say Williams has said he'd like to play here without knowing he's also said he'd like to return to Carolina.
And no one seems to recognize that even if Williams is a free agent, he'll have a handful of teams vying for his services.
So let's seriously consider this:
First, if the appeals court denies the NFL's request for a stay of a lower court's decision to end the lockout and the league must return to work under 2010 rules, as many believe will happen, then Williams simply will not be an unrestricted free agent at all.
If the NFL is forced to operate under 2010 guidelines, only players with six years of NFL experience will be considered unrestricted free agents. Williams has five years of NFL experience. He would be restricted. This is such a serious reality that Carolina on March 2nd placed a tender on Williams, assuring its rights to the running back.
It is such a serious reality that during the draft, once Carolina drafted Cam Newton, new Panthers coach Ron Rivera spoke passionately about how having Newton would benefit Williams in the backfield.
"If the defense crashes down on the line of scrimmage, [Newton] can bootleg outside and make something happen," Rivera told the Charlotte Observer. "If they honor that too much, then DeAngelo cuts back on the backside and breaks it for a 60-yard gain."
The Panthers tagged Williams with the highest tender, meaning any team wanting to sign him under 2010 guidelines would have to compensate the Panthers a first- and third-round draft pick. What does that mean? It means the Dolphins will not be getting DeAngelo Williams if he is restricted because I believe the Dolphins have come to dislike the idea of always being down one or several high draft picks each April while the New England Patriots are replete with their picks and some of everyone else's.
Of course, it is possible sanity prevails in this labor situation and the league and the non-union union work out an amicable collective bargaining agreement that makes Williams and all players with five years of experience free agents if they're unsigned.
Does that automatically clear the decks for the Dolphins?
Well, working for Miami is the fact Williams is represented by Jimmy Sexton, who also happens to represent coach Tony Sparano and general manager Jeff Ireland. I'm not suggesting that gives the Dolphins an advantage. I am suggesting if the Dolphins want to pay top market value, Sexton will be happy to bring a client to another client. It makes for a logical business dealing.
Also making Williams a possibility if he's a free agent, is the fact he has stated to several media outlets he'd like to play for Miami.
But guess what? Williams has stated to several other media outlets he'd like to stay in Carolina, too.
My guess is Williams wants to be wherever the payday is most lucrative and his opportunity for collecting stats and wins is greatest. That combination will trump everything, in my opinion, and he's not going to close any door until a decision is made.
One more thing regarding Williams: Folks seem to forget his former coach John Fox is now in Denver. Fox held Williams in high regard. The Broncos need help with their running game. The Detroit Lions were linked last year to liking Williams.
What I'm saying is their will be a market for arguably the best running back on the market.
So before we start picking out a number for this kid, remember he might be more valuable -- meaning $$$$ -- to someone else. And remember if the NFL lockout is ended by the courts and we're back to working under 2010 rules, Williams will not be playing in Miami because he will not be an unrestricted free agent.