James wants to come home
BY ARMANDO SALGUERO
JACKSONVILLE - The line of running backs hoping to play for the Dolphins next season is getting longer, with former University of Miami star Edgerrin James apparently eyeing a return to South Florida.
James has told several friends he wants to play for the Dolphins next season, according a source close to James who confirmed a report on ESPN.
James is unsigned for the 2005 season and can become an unrestricted free agent unless he signs or is tagged as the Indianapolis Colts' franchise player.
James has made no secret of his affinity for South Florida, where he makes his offseason home. Throughout his seven-year career with the Colts, James has opted to train and work out in South Florida during the offseason rather than train with his teammates in Indianapolis.
The Colts have vowed to keep James despite the salary cap implications such a move might require. Indianapolis can guarantee James will remain on their roster by tagging him as their franchise player, but that would cost approximately $6 million in cap space for 2005.
The Colts might not be able to devote so much cap space to keeping James after signing Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison to contract extensions the past two seasons.
While James would have value in the open market, it is unclear what the Dolphins' interest would be. Miami must cut several players -- likely quarterback Jay Fiedler and linebacker Junior Seau among others -- to avoid being approximately $17 million over the projected cap.
James likely would be the Dolphins' highest-paid offensive player if the team decides it has interest in the perennial Pro Bowl player.
The Dolphins would not have to give up draft choice compensation for James if he becomes a free agent, however.
That is not the case with Buffalo running back Travis Henry or Denver running back Rueben Droughns. Both players have sought and been granted permission to seek trades.
Both players, through their agents, have expressed an interest in playing for the Dolphins, and both agents have discussed the issue with Miami. No player can be traded until March.
Dolphins coach Nick Saban was unavailable for comment. He said recently the running back position is one of Miami's greatest areas of need, along with offensive left tackle and defense.
Saban also has said he wants to build the Dolphins through the draft, and last week he spent much time interviewing Auburn running back Carnell ''Cadillac'' Williams.
• Dolphins offensive tackle Wade Smith underwent surgery last week to repair torn cartilage in his right knee. He is expected to be out at least eight weeks.
Herald Sports Writer Jason Cole contributed to this report.