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Fantasy impact of Dolphins signing Arian Foster

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According to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, veteran running back Arian Foster signed with the Miami Dolphins today on one-year deal with up to $3.5 million in incentives. The decorated four-time Pro Bowl running back spent his previous seven NFL seasons with the Houston Texans.

The Dolphins demonstrated time and time again this offseason they were not content with their backfield situation. Between failed pursuits of C.J. Anderson and Chris Johnson in free agency to the selection of Alabama's Kenyan Drake in the third-round of the NFL Draft, the Dolphins were clearly looking for a makeover. The signing of Foster looks to be the latest, and most notable, attempt to add someone else to the mix.

Fantasy owners were desperately waiting to know where Foster would sign, as not many backs over the last decade carry a resume to match his. Foster played 13 or more games in four of his seven seasons in Houston. He finished as the RB1, RB4, RB3 and RB5 in standard leagues during each of those years. There is no doubt that Foster is one of the best fantasy backs of this generation after rising from the ranks of the undrafted.

However, the one dark mark hovering over Arian Foster's career was the ever-present threat of the injury bug. Not many players spent more time on the trainer's table than the Texans star. Foster missed 23 of Houston's last 40 games with multiple ailments across different seasons. Whether it be a hamstring, groin, back or the Achilles tear that ended his 2015 campaign after just four games, it is always something with Foster.

Last season was the first time where we saw a decline in Foster's on-field performance in the face of constant maladies. Whereas before Foster would still dominate despite the presence of injuries, his performance careened off a cliff in 2015. Foster was painfully inefficient as a runner on a team that is inherently a ground-oriented squad. Of the four primary backs that played at least 25 percent of the team snaps Arian Foster posted the worst yards per carry figure with a paltry 2.6. He looked noticeably more sluggish last season, which isn't unexpected from back pushing 30-years-old with a long and winding injury history.

On the positive side, Foster still showed he could be a true asset as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. Foster was dominant dual-threat back in his prime and his 119.9 scrimmage yards per game is the highest since 2010. He demonstrated in his final year with Houston that he could still hold up as a receiver. Hauling in 78.6 percent of his targets, Foster was a dynamic player out in space averaging 10.3 yards per reception. Pro Football Focus credited the veteran back with an average of 7.6 receiving yards earned after the catch in 2015, demonstrating his still-present ability to make plays in the open field.

Fantasy owners need to take in both sides of that equation when weighing what to do with Arian Foster and the other players he now joins in the running back room. It is imperative we properly contextualize the player that Foster is today with the environment he's walking into when slotting him in our draft boards.

Foster's inefficiency as a runner throws serious doubt on the idea that he'll walk right into a lead back role for the Dolphins. Miami clearly is not comfortable with sophomore Jay Ajayi as that three-down workhorse, given their persistent attempts to replace him, but he was effective in limited looks as a rookie. He could certainly factor into the early-down work for the Dolphins and potentially split the rushing load with Foster.

Of course, there were multiple reports out of Dolphins OTAs that cast doubt on the team's confidence in Ajayi as a receiver. Given that we know Foster can still be effective in that role, expect him to usurp those third-down and passing plays entirely from Ajayi. This signing also essentially collapses any path to Year 1 relevancy for Kenyan Drake, who was a gadget receiver in his career with the Crimson Tide.

Without a doubt, Jay Ajayi's fantasy stock took on some water today, but Foster's addition does not completely sink the ship. There is no way the Dolphins can assign the veteran back anywhere close to the 21 touches a game Foster saw just last year in Houston. There's also the threat of another injury with Foster, the risk of which only increases as he ages. Chris Wesseling of Around the NFL wrote back in 2013 about the murky outlook for running backs coming off Achilles tendon injuries. Couple that with Foster's advanced age and career workload, hopefully fantasy owners understand what kind of long odds one of our favorites has to climb to even approach the status he held for so many years.

Arian Foster makes for a worthwhile grab as a high-upside dart throw in the eighth or ninth round of fantasy drafts. Give him a slight bump in PPR leagues, given Miami's potential to face a good amount of negative game scripts and Foster's role as the primary receiving back. Just understand that selecting Foster comes with few guarantees and a number of avenues to not working out. For that reason, Jay Ajayi remains a target in that same draft range. He should still factor into some of the early down rushing work and would walk right back into the lead back role should Foster suffer another injury.

Matt Harmon is an associate fantasy writer/editor for NFL.com, and the creator of #ReceptionPerception, who you can follow on Twitter @MattHarmon_BYB or like on Facebook.

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