We’re bringing back a popular series from last offseason! Until NFL free agency opens on March 14, we at The Phinsider will be reviewing the impending free agents on the Miami Dolphins and evaluating whether or not the team should retain them, tag them, or let them walk. When front offices choose how to handle their impending free agents, they take a variety of factors into account, including age, production, and value, so we’ll be doing the same. Today, we start with running back Damien Williams.
Williams has been with the Dolphins for four seasons since being signed as an undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma back in 2014. Since then, he’s appeared in 58 games and started four, all four of which took place this season after the team traded Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles. Since he joined the Dolphins, Williams has mostly operated as a change-of-pace and third down back due to his skill in pass protection and ability to catch passes out of the backfield.
Despite his varied skill set, Williams simply isn’t a home run hitter. He doesn’t produce many explosive plays and lacks the breakaway speed of the league’s upper echelon of running backs. His career rushing average is a mediocre 3.6 ypc on 133 attempts to go with three rushing touchdowns, all of which were scored during the 2016 season. The 26-year old’s receiving production is slightly better. Williams has 85 receptions, 733 receiving yards, and six receiving touchdowns over his four years in Miami.
Where he really seems to shine, at least according to head coach Adam Gase, is in the locker room. Gase has repeatedly expressed his affinity for the young running back and seems to think he has a positive impact on the rest of the team. Aside from last year’s brief hold out, we’ve never seen any character issues with Williams, nor has he ever outwardly complained about his few opportunities to compete for the lead back role. Even with breakout star Kenyan Drake in line to start next season, it’s entirely possible Gase makes a case to keep Williams around. That being said, it may also be time for the team to look in another direction to find a running back to add to the rotation who can add the type of spark and explosiveness that Williams lacks.
Phinsider Verdict: I think the Dolphins should looked to retain Williams if his price tag isn’t too steep. He’s shown the ability to be a capable pass protector, something that’s often hard to find in a running back, and his pass catching skills are severely underrated by many.