NFL Free Agency: Miami Dolphins Look at Marion Barber, Thigpen to Buffalo

Chris J. NelsonSenior Writer IJuly 27, 2011

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 03:  Running back Marion Barber #24 of the Dallas Cowboys runs the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Dallas-to-Miami pipeline has been well established since Jeff Ireland, Tony Sparano and the rest arrived from Big D.

Numerous former Cowboys have brought their talents to South Beach since 2008.

That trend may continue into 2011, as ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the Dolphins could have interest in running back Marion Barber—if and when he is released by the Cowboys.

Teams can begin releasing players at 4 p.m. Thursday.

Releasing Barber will save the Cowboys roughly $4.75 million against the 2011 salary cap.

The 28-year-old is coming off a season that saw him rush for just 374 yards on a career-worst 3.3 average.

While the Cowboys are looking to make room for a young backfield—including Felix Jones, Tashard Choice and rookie DeMarco Murray—the Dolphins are aiming to fill theirs out.

They currently have zero running backs under contract.

The Dolphins have rookie second-rounder Daniel Thomas to carry some of the load, and they will retain exclusive-rights free agents Lex Hilliard and Kory Sheets as competition for depth.

However, the team will need someone to split time with Thomas so that the rookie does not get overworked.

This may or may not be the same roster addition that will fill the potential "complementary back" role.

It's possible the team could look to sign a Reggie Bush or Darren Sproles type to add a dynamic receiving element out of the backfield, but that wouldn't necessarily preclude them from picking up someone like Barber as insurance for Thomas as well.

Obviously, Barber is coming off a down year, and one has to wonder if the physical style of play that made him so successful earlier in his career has finally taken its toll on his body.

However, if he can be added relatively cheaply, I see absolutely no issue with picking up Barber as a part-time thumper and potential goal-line back.

Another name to keep in mind when it comes to soon-to-be-released Cowboys is guard Leonard Davis, who made the Pro Bowl under then-line-coach Sparano in 2007 and could be a potential upgrade at either guard spot for the Dolphins.

Thigpen Agrees to Terms With Bills

Those fans hoping to see Tyler Thigpen's mobility and fiery on-field demeanor compete with Chad Henne for a starting job in Miami can give up hope.

As expected, Thigpen agreed to terms on a three-year contract with the Buffalo Bills in a move that was widely speculated even before the lockout ended, including in an article I wrote last week.

The move reunites him with current Bills head coach Chan Gailey, who was the quarterback's offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008 in what remains Thigpen's most productive season to date.

In Buffalo, Thigpen will likely slide in as the No. 2 quarterback behind Ryan Fitzpatrick.

While Thigpen desires an opportunity to start and likely believes it could happen in Buffalo, it's hard to imagine him beating out a healthy Fitzpatrick after he threw for 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2010.

As for the Dolphins, it is almost certain that they will add a veteran to push Henne for the starting job, with the Broncos' Kyle Orton and Titans' Vince Young seemingly the most likely candidates.

Practice-squad holdover Tom Brandstater and undrafted rookie Pat Devlin are expected to compete for the team's No. 3 job.

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Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and currently works for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.