The latest piece of mounting evidence that NFL teams do not value running backs quite the way they used to: Knowshon Moreno, off a career-best, 1,500-plus total yard season, settled for a one-year contract with the Miami Dolphins after finding little to no other interest in free agency. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the deal.
Flanked by Peyton Manning and the Broncos' explosive passing attack, the 26-year-old Moreno topped 1,000 yards on the ground last season for the first time in his career plus scored 10 touchdowns. He added three more scores, 60 receptions and another 548 yards as a receiver, helping Denver to an AFC championship and Super Bowl berth.
Rather than keep Moreno around, the Broncos apparently opted to hand over the RB reins to Montee Ball, a rookie last season. Denver head coach John Fox had said on ESPN's NFL Insiders this week that the franchise was "definitely" open to bringing back Moreno, thus recreating the 1-2 Moreno-Ball punch in the backfield. Instead, Ronnie Hillman, C.J. Anderson or an as-yet-undetermined free agent/draft pick will partner with Ball.
Moreno still has company in Miami, in the person of Lamar Miller. A fourth-round pick of the Dolphins in 2012, Miller led the team with 707 yards on the ground last season. His complement in the run game, Daniel Thomas, could be squeezed into a nonessential role -- or find himself off the roster -- upon Moreno's arrival.
His 2013 performance ended a string of three disappointing seasons for Moreno. After nearly hitting 1,000 yards rushing as a rookie in 2009, he dipped to 779 in '10 and all the way to 179 as injuries ravaged his '11 season. Last year marked the first time he suited up for all 16 games since that rookie campaign.
Moreno's presence, particularly as a pass-catcher and blocker, should be a boost for Ryan Tannehill. With Moreno, Miller, Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline, there are several legitimate options through the air.
The one-year deal also ensures that Moreno plays with the same contract-year vigor he had for Denver, with another jaunt into free agency possibly awaiting him next offseason. No running back found much luck this offseason, with Ben Tate getting two years, $7 million; and Donald Brown and Toby Gerhart pulling in twin, three-year, $10.5 million contracts to top the charts. Grade: B-plus. Moreno will find defenses much more prepared to handle the run in Miami, as opposed to what he saw with Denver spreading the field. At the very least, though, he constitutes a significant upgrade on Thomas for the Dolphins offense and could wind up the No. 1 back before long.