Chris Shashaty, Phins.com columnist
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The Dolphins can certainly use a few more good players. They also don’t want to lose the good ones they have.
That’s the essence of what General Manager Randy Mueller spends his time focused on since head coach Nick Saban successfully persuaded him to join the franchise.
In fact, the team has made so many changes since Mueller joined up that Saban wonders if the Dolphins have “changed too much”.
In Mueller’s view, there no choice but to change. It’s a view that the coaches wholeheartedly support.
“It has to happen that way because we’ve got to find the kind of player(s) that Coach wants to fit into the system.”
In the case of Ricky Williams, expect him to be a part of the long term vision.
Contrary to a popular school of thought, Mueller sees a likely scenario where both Williams and top pick Ronnie Brown continue with the team beyond 2005.
“I’m not for getting rid of good players”, said Mueller. “Can they both exist? Sure they can. It’s a two man job now.”
While Mueller calls any future decision regarding Williams’s oft-discussed contract status “premature”, it seems clear that the Dolphins have been giving some real thought towards finding a mutually agreeable way to keeping Williams and Brown together.
“Ricky is under contract obviously for several more years,” noted Mueller. “But you could make the case to justify having both of them. I think they’re both different enough that it would make sense for us.”
But would it make sense for Ricky? His agent, Leigh Steinberg, has made it clear that he would like to have his client’s contract adjusted so that Williams isn’t playing for minimal dollars.
Still, the Dolphins have the high ground in any potential discussions regarding Williams’s future over the remaining life of his current contract. Williams is basically obligated to live up to the current deal, warts and all, lest the Dolphins enforce the $8.6 million judgment levied against him for walking out on the team last season.
For now, with only a preseason of work completed, the Dolphins are more than willing to watch and see.
That being said, Williams has helped his cause since his return by being a model citizen.
His work during training camp earned high praise from Saban. With his league-mandated suspension currently in effect, Williams has continued to be diligent with conditioning and weight training work.
He has even taken to practicing alone on the field once his teammates have left, repeating the same drills that were conducted earlier. Under NFL rules, only an athletic trainer is permitted to supervise the work.
Then there’s the question of Ricky’s feelings about being back with the Dolphins.
By all accounts Williams has really bought into Saban’s program. He appears happy in Miami and has privately suggested that he would prefer not to leave. Even the perceived uneasiness between himself and Mueller seems to have passed.
“When he got here, the very first day he got back, we hooked up in the hallway and we had a good laugh”, Mueller recalled about their ironic reunion. To that end, Mueller believes he and Williams have put the past behind them.
Does this create conditions for a compromise between Williams and the Dolphins, a compromise that would keep the enigmatic running back in Miami for the rest of his career?
“If we can find a way to keep them both, I’m all for it”, declared Mueller. “Had the Dolphins not given us that type of compensation package, he’d probably be in New Orleans right now.”
Given that it is highly unlikely that the Dolphins will receive anything close to what they paid for Williams, the best value proposition for all parties concerned would be a continued relationship. That could take the form of a highly incentivized deal with similar “walkaway” language that his current deal now possesses.
As for Mueller’s statement that both players are “different enough”, early returns tend to support the position.
Williams, at this point in his career relative to Brown’s, is the more polished runner. Meanwhile, Brown’s ability in the passing game and in pass protection is exceptional.
Essentially, Williams would reprise the role that Carnell “Cadillac” Williams played when Cadillac and Brown were at Auburn, a tandem that seemed to work out pretty well.
It’s a formula that the Dolphins appear likely to try and follow.