The 2019 Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ running game wasn’t anything to write home about despite the improvement from 2018 second round pick Ronald Jones. Jones became a far more prevalent part of the offense both in the running and passing games, but Jones won’t be enough by himself. With Peyton Barber a pending free agent, the Bucs will be in the market for another back to team up with RoJo.
LAMAR MILLER’S CAREER THUS FAR
A fourth round pick by the Miami Dolphins out of the University of Miami in 2012, Miller has played in 105 games, starting 89. He has 5,864 yards on 1,354 carries - a 4.2 yards per carry average - and 32 touchdowns. On the receiving end, Miller has 209 receptions for 1,565 yards and eight touchdowns.
Miller signed a four year, $26 million dollar deal with Houston Texans back in 2016 with $14 million of it guaranteed. Unfortunately for Miller, he missed the entire 2019 season after suffering an ACL tear in the third preseason game, Since signing with the Texans, Miller has rushed for at least 875 yards including one 1,000+ yard season (2016) where he carried the ball a career high 268 times, finishing with a 4.0 yards per carry average. In fact, Miller has only ever had one season when he didn’t reach at least four yards per carry when he averaged 3.7 for the Texans in 2017.
WHY IT WORKS
Miller is no stranger to the running back by committee, sharing time most recently in Houston with running backs like Alfred Blue, D’Onta Foreman, and Andre Ellington. Sharing time with Jones would be no issue at all to Miller’s regular routine and will allow him to stay fresh throughout the season.
The Buccaneers haven’t had a 1,000 yard rusher on their roster since Doug Martin back in 2015 and the most recent one before that was also Martin back in 2012. Having someone one the roster that has accomplished that and knows what it takes would not only benefit the team but Jones as well. Miller can provide veteran leadership and mentorship to Jones that will help him grow in his ever expanding role.
Miller is an injury risk. Not only did Miller miss 2019 with the ACL injury, he’s also dealt with two ankle sprains, a pectoral bruise, an A/C joint sprain, and a concussion. According to Sports Injury Predictor, Miller is a “medium risk” with a 53.6% chance of injury in 2020 and a predictive 1.2 games missed.
Investing serious money into a player with a long injury history is never a good idea, which may cause the Buccaneers to pause when/if considering him.
WHAT’S THE COST?
It’s unlikely Miller will receive the kind of pay day he received from Houston back in 2016. Again, I’ll point to his injury history as a big reason. However, when he’s been on the field he’s been one of the most consistent players at the running back position having seen at least 55% of snaps with the Texans each season. Seasons of 1,073, 888, and 973 yards show that Miller is an effective, dangerous running back that will be out to prove something in 2020 following the lost season of 2019.
This could lead to one of those prove it deals we saw the Buccaneers shell out in the last free agent frenzy. Miller made around $5.5 million per season in his last three years with Houston (the first year of the deal paid him $8.5) so a one or two year deal worth around $4-4.75 million per season isn’t out of the question by any means.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW
For starters, we don’t know the level of interest the Houston Texans will have in retaining their star running back or Miller’s level of interest in leaving the Texans. The other elephant in the room is Miller’s ability to return from that injury suffered in the 2019 preseason. At 28 years old, Miller is coming up on that ever terrifying running back brick wall known as 30 years old. Any team that wants him is only going to get one or two years of decent production out of him, which may also mean Miller is looking to maximize the guarantees in what play out to be his final NFL contract.
We also don’t know how active the Buccaneers will be in free agency on the offensive side of the ball. Outside of quarterback, the glaring issue is retaining their defensive free agents. The defense came on strong in the second half of the season and Bruce Arians has emphasized multiple times that the defense - most notably Shaquil Barrett - is their number one priority.
The draft always has plenty of options at the running back position and the options in day three tend to pan out better than most any other position. Paying free agent running backs is becoming more and more scarce as teams are looking to maximize production on rookie deals before moving on to the next.
MAKE THE DECISION
So with the state of the Bucs’ running backs what it is, what Lamar Miller has been, and the risk/reward of signing a back like Miller - what should the Buccaneers do?
Vote in the poll below and discuss in the comments!
When it comes to Lamar Miller, the Buccaneers need to...
This poll is closed
Sign Him, No Matter What
Make An Offer, But Keep It Reasonable
Invite Him For A Cup Of Coffee And See Where It Goes From There
Call Him Up If We Have A Need After The Draft
Don’t Need Him