Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dolphins acquire running back Reggie Bush from Saints

The Miami Dolphins have made their first big splash of the 2011 offseason, acquiring dynamic running back and returner Reggie Bush from the New Orleans Saints in exchange for safety Jonathon Amaya and an undisclosed late-round draft pick.

As a condition of the trade, Bush also agreed to a new two-year contract with the Dolphins that will pay him $9.75 million. The deal includes base salaries of $2.5 million in 2011 and $4.5 million in 2012, as well as a $275,000 workout bonus in the final year. His original contract with the Saints called for him to be paid roughly $11.8 million this season.

Bush joins second-round rookie Daniel Thomas in the Dolphins' new-look backfield as the team looks to replace veteran free agents Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, who may very well be heading elsewhere.

The Dolphins also have exclusive-rights free agents Lex Hilliard and Kory Sheets and undrafted rookie Nic Grigsby to compete for backup running back spots.

With the acquisition of Bush and today's three draft pick signings, the Dolphins now have 71 players under contract. They have 80 of the 90 spots on their active roster spoken for when you add in Tony McDaniel, Jason Trusnik, the team's four restricted or exclusive-rights free agents, and the three remaining unsigned draft picks.


A star prep running back from La Mesa, Calif., Bush was recruited by Pete Carroll to the University of Southern California. He made an immediate impact for the Trojans, earning Freshman All-American honors leading the Pac-10 in kickoff returns while setting the freshman school record for all-purpose yards.

Bush continued his dominance in 2004, as he rushed for 908 yards and six touchdowns, caught 43 passes for 509 yards and seven touchdowns, and even threw for another on a 52-yard pass. He became the first Trojan since Marcus Allen to lead the conference in all-purpose yards.

As a junior in 2005, Bush's dominance elevated to a whole new level. He rushed for 1,740 yards and 16 touchdowns on an 8.7 average and added 481 yards and two touchdowns receiving. He was a consensus All-American for the second consecutive year and also won numerous postseason awards, including the Doak Walker Award, Walter Camp Award, and the Heisman Trophy, beating out Texas quarterback Vince Young. The latter would later be forfeited in 2010 after allegations of improper benefits he received while at USC.

Bush declared for the 2006 NFL Draft following his junior season and was expected by many to be taken first overall by the Houston Texans. However, the Texans instead chose to select NC State defensive end Mario Williams, leaving Bush for the New Orleans Saints with the second overall pick.

Signed to a six-year contract with a maximum value of $62 million, Bush rushed for just 565 yards on a 3.6 average as a rookie, but did manage to catch 88 passes for 742 yards. His rushing total increased to 581 yards in 2007, but his reception total dipped to 73 and his receiving yards decreased dramatically to 417.

Bush returned two punts for touchdowns in a 2008 game against the Minnesota Vikings, and finished the season with 404 yards rushing and 440 yards receiving in 10 games as he missed time with a sprained MCL.

Despite setting career highs in offensive touchdowns (8) and rushing average (5.6), Bush carried the ball only 70 times and amassed 390 yards. He was held mostly in-check in the Saints' Super Bowl XLIV victory over the Indianapolis Colts, although he did caught a touchdown pass late in the game.

Bush's injury problems followed him into the 2010 season, as he suffered a broken bone in his leg returning a punt and missed eight games between September and November. He set career lows in nearly every offensive category as 2010 also became his first season without rushing for a touchdown.

Bush's release was widely speculated leading up to the 2011 offseason, as his salary for the season was to approach $12 million and the team had focused their attention on other backs, re-signing Pierre Thomas to an extension and using a first-round pick on Alabama's Mark Ingram.


Bush has certainly gotten a lot of flak during his career, from the allegations at USC to his extravagant personal life, to on-the-field problems like durability concerns and lack of production as a runner.

All that being said, I think this is an absolutely fantastic move for the Dolphins and I really don't see any reason to not like it. They're not paying him very much money, especially when you consider Daniel Thomas is going to be playing for peanuts on a rookie contract.

And, while it's disappointing to see Amaya go in the deal after how good he was on special teams last year (15 tackles in 10 games), the fact remains that he was just that—a special teamer. As good as he was, he was still replaceable and you can't compare the impact he had to the one Bush could make.

Reports have said that Bush has been assured he will be "the man" in Miami, but don't expect him to get more than 10-12 touches a game on offense. The team drafted Thomas to be the workhorse and may even add a veteran backup like Marion Barber to handle the load if the rookie stumbles or gets hurt.

What the Dolphins will do with Bush is give him the occasional carry, throw to him a lot of the backfield or even lined up at receiver, and potentially use him on punt returns. The latter would give the Dolphins the home-run threat they've lacked since they traded Ted Ginn, Jr., as we all know that Davone Bess is little more than a cadaver on returns.

Bush may never silence all his critics and he may never truly live up to the No. 2 pick used to select him in 2006, but that certainly doesn't mean he can't be an impact player for the Dolphins.

The reality is that, for a good special-teams player, a late draft pick, and less than $10 million over two seasons (or, to put it another way, less than Gibril Wilson (embarrassingly pictured) made for the Dolphins in 2009), the Dolphins acquired one of the most physically-gifted players in the NFL and a dynamic weapon that can change a game in multiple ways.

As always, check out the updated projected depth chart reflecting these transactions here.

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