Why Knowshon Moreno Is the Perfect Short-Term Fix for the Miami Dolphins at RB

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IMarch 27, 2014

USA Today

The Miami Dolphins continue to put their bevy of salary-cap space to good use with another signing to fill a need.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Dolphins signed former Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno to a one-year deal on Thursday. 

The deal is for "about $3 million," according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

How did Moreno last this long and sign such a team-friendly deal? The market has not been kind to running backs this season. According to Spotrac, running backs signed for an average of $2,168,708 per year (13th out of 20 positions) and for an average of just 2.4 years (10th). 

There is some concern that his stats were inflated by the presence of quarterback Peyton Manning; he didn't emerge as a solid running back until Manning showed up in 2012.

Knowshon Moreno, before and with Peyton Manning
Before Peyton362446619054.112766869.06
With Peyton242138015634.114817158.83
Career (5 yrs)604584634684.12615714018.99
Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com

It actually took Moreno some time before he emerged with Manning. He struggled in his first two games, with 15 rushing yards on eight carries, and he was a healthy scratch for the next two months before he finally found his way back into the lineup after an injury to Willis McGahee.

Moreno stepped in and immediately contributed, with 130 carries for 510 yards (3.92 YPA) and three touchdowns in Denver's final six games of the season. 

He followed that up with a huge season in 2013. Dolphins fans will love that his best game of the season came against the New England Patriots, in which he rushed for 224 yards, and fell just 27 yards short of the 13-year-old Broncos record set by Mike Anderson in 2000.

He played a particularly big role in the passing game last season, with 60 catches for 548 yards and three touchdowns, and he made progress in pass protection as well. That last part will be important in Miami; Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked 58 times in 2013. It was the most sacks on any quarterback in 2013 and set a record for the worst beating ever taken by a Dolphins quarterback in one season. 

The pocket collapsed so quickly at times, it was hard to tell who was to blame for Tannehill being taken down, but one group that didn't get enough blame in that area was the running backs; they combined for five sacks and 16 total pressures allowed on Tannehill, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). 

Moreno has a similar skill set to third-year running back Lamar Miller; Miller is the faster of the two, but Moreno is markedly better in pass protection and is much more polished as a receiver. He's also far superior to fourth-year running back Daniel Thomas in that role, although Thomas is a more physical runner than Moreno.

The Dolphins were wise to add Moreno to the mix, if for no other reason than to provide insurance on Miller and Thomas. If the two draft picks continue to struggle, the free agent should be able to step in and produce.

Both Thomas and Moreno will be free agents in 2015, and Miller's contract will be easily expendable at that point ($121,500 in dead money on a $781,500 cap hit, according to Spotrac). This is set up as a competition for the running back spot both in the short term and long term. 

And worst-case scenario, if none of the three backs steps up and proves himself as the answer, the Dolphins can blow the whole thing up and start over again next year.


Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.