Frank Gore’s South Florida reunion ended on Monday, when the free agent running back agreed to a one-year, $2 million contract with the Buffalo Bills.
Though the Dolphins hold Gore in high regard and appreciated how he played in his one season with the team, Miami wanted to get younger at the position as it embarks on a rebuilding program.
Kenyan Drake is entering the final season of his rookie contract, and the Dolphins want to see more of Kalen Ballage, a fourth-round pick a year ago who flashed potential late in the season.
Gore, who will turn 36 on May 14, started 14 games for the Dolphins and rushed for 722 yards (4.6 per carry). He missed the final two games with a sprained foot, an injury sustained in the Week 15 loss to Minnesota.
That injury snapped Gore’s streak of 126 consecutive games, which was the longest active streak among NFL running backs, wide receivers and tight ends.
Gore, who made $1.1 million for the Dolphins last season, also had started 122 games in a row, which was the longest streak for any NFL running back since Eddie George started 130 in a row from 1996 to 2004.
Gore’s 14,748 yards rushing place him fourth on the NFL’s all-time rushing list, behind Emmitt Smith (18,355), Walter Payton (16,726) and Barry Sanders (15,269).
In Buffalo, he is expected to share time with LeSean McCoy.
Gore, who attended Coral Gables High and the University of Miami, would have loved to have finished his career with the Dolphins.
But the Dolphins have told people that at some positions, they don’t want veterans potentially blocking the progress of young players.
The Dolphins like what they saw last season from Ballage, who ran 36 times for 191 yards, a 5.3 average, including a 71-yard touchdown against Minnesota. He also caught nine passes for 56 yards.
“He’s a big, physical body,” said running backs coach Eric Studesville, who was retained by new coach Brian Flores. “He can run. He’s athletic. He’s got a lot of growth to do as far as seeing and recognizing things. His work ethic is tremendous. He’s got speed for a big man.”
Though Drake averaged 4.5 yards (29th in the league), he averaged only 7.5 carries per game, and that figure could increase amid Gore’s departure.
Studesville said Drake never complained a single time about lack of carries.
“Kenyan did a great job and was trying to do everything he could to help us win games,” Studesville said. “He knows that happens a lot of different ways” — meaning catching and running the ball.
Another Dolphins running back, Brandon Bolden, is an unrestricted free agent.
▪ Barring a change of heart, the Dolphins do not plan to tender restricted free agent center/guard Jake Brendel, who appeared in 21 games for the Dolphins over the past three seasons, including three starts last season. But they haven’t ruled out bringing him back.
The Dolphins must decide by 4 p.m. Wednesday whether to tender their two other restricted free agents — receiver Leonte Carroo and linebacker Mike Hull.
▪ Patriots defensive tackle Malcom Brown and Cleveland quarterback Tyrod Taylor were among players linked to the Dolphins in the opening hours of free agency. Blake Bortles, expected to be released by Jacksonville, also looms as an option to replace Ryan Tannehill at quarterback.