C.J. Anderson isn’t a Miami Dolphin yet. But he’s a lot closer than he was when free agency began.
Anderson, perhaps the No. 1 running back still on the market, signed a four-year offer sheet Thursday with the Dolphins; the contract is for $18 million over those four years, according to multiple reports.
Anderson all but confirmed those terms on social media with a retweet; it is believed he would receive more than $10 million in guarantees.
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“God is good thank you,” Anderson wrote.
Now the fun, and the waiting, begins. The Denver Broncos, Anderson’s team the past three years, have five days to match the offer, or will lose him to Miami with no compensation.
That’s because the Broncos tendered Anderson, a restricted free agent, at the lowest level a few weeks back. Because Anderson was undrafted out of college, the Dolphins would owe Denver nothing in return.
And if KUSA-TV out of Denver has the structure of Anderson’s offer sheet correct (a $5.25 million signing bonus and $6 million due in 2016), the Broncos might be hard-pressed to match it, considering they still need a quarterback following the retirement of Peyton Manning and departure of Brock Osweiler in free agency.
There’s little chance Anderson would have ever left Denver had the Broncos simply valued him a bit more. They could have placed a second-round tender on Anderson, which would have paid him $2.6 million — less than a million more than the low tender. If they had, the Dolphins would have had to part with a second-rounder, plus give Anderson a big multiyear contract.
But that’s just one of the reasons several teams sought him out tihs week. Among the others: He’s young (25). And he’s productive (averaging 4.8 yards per carry in his career).
The Dolphins need a running back after losing Lamar Miller to the Texans on Wednesday. Second-year pro Jay Ajayi is the only real option currently on their roster.
Houston’s four-year, $26 million offer to Miller was too much. The Dolphins’ budget at running back was closer to what they offered Anderson.
If the deal goes through, Anderson will be reunited with new Dolphins coach Adam Gase.
Gase was Anderson’s offensive coordinator in the running back’s first two NFL seasons before taking over the same job with the Bears in 2015.
After moving on from Denver, Gase had a bit of fun at Anderson’s expense.
Last May, he told Chicago reporters the following: “In Denver — C.J. [Anderson] would hate me for saying this — but he got tired and was a little chubby sometimes. I mean, he got worn down quick and then we had to rotate backs in last year.”
(The 5-8 Anderson entered the league weighing 224 pounds.)
Gase’s comments might actually be a window into the Dolphins’ thinking. Anderson has never had 180 or more carries in a season, so he could be sharing the role with Jay Ajayi, who impressed as a rookie.
When reminded by Broncos teammate Chris Harris about the dig on Twitter, Anderson made clear he hadn’t forgotten.
Of course, millions of guaranteed dollars will erase any lingering embarrasment.
The Dolphins’ running back pursuit follows a now-familiar script for this offseason: make a cursory run at the top players at a position of need, stick to a price point, then move to Plan B if the numbers don’t work out.
None is considered the best at his position. But all improve the overall talent level of a Dolphins roster that was pilloried on Day 1 of free agency.
Robinson, Bushrod and Jones will all visit the team in the coming days. The Dolphins would like to meet with defensive end Robert Ayers as well, but he canceled his visit Thursday and opted to go to Jacksonville instead.
Robinson might replace jettisoned Brice McCain as the Dolphins’ nickel corner. A torn pectoral muscle derailed his 2015 season, and he started just five games.
Jones recorded 31 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 15 games last year. Bushrod has started 96 games for the Saints and Bears in his nine-year career.
The Dolphins have the flexibility to sign all three after holding back early in free agency. They have roughly $27 million in available salary cap space, according to Over The Cap.
Miami Herald sportswriter Barry Jackson contributed to this report.
Anderson vs. Miller
Comparing career numbers of C.J. Anderson and former Dolphins starter Lamar Miller: