With an underwhelming offense that needs upgrades to become playoff-worthy, the Miami Dolphins this winter could be eager to reach a deal with a 1,000-yard rusher who can also catch passes and score from anywhere on the field.
Or perhaps they'll deem Reggie Bush too expensive to keep.
On Sunday, Bush might play his final game for the Dolphins (7-8) when they close their season at New England. His two-year contract for nearly $10 million expires after the season, and the team hasn't offered him a new deal.
"I would definitely love to be back," Bush said Wednesday. "There's definitely some unfinished business here, some things we want to accomplish, some things I would love to accomplish."
Bush needs 40 yards rushing to reach the 1,000 milestone for the second year in a row since joining the Dolphins. He has been their primary playmaker, but he has yet to lead them to the playoffs — or even a winning season.
Because he's 27 at a position where youth is preferred, and because the recent market demand for free-agent running backs has been modest, Bush faces a likely pay cut wherever he plays next year.
And it's unclear how eager the Dolphins will be to join the bidding. They'll have more than $40 million in cap space, but they also have rookie running back Lamar Miller poised to assume a bigger role in 2013. And they have pressing needs at receiver, tight end, cornerback and defensive end.
A seven-year veteran, Bush has never made the Pro Bowl. But he has averaged 4.7 yards per carry with Miami, and he showed Sunday he wouldn't be easy to replace, scoring three touchdowns — two on receptions — in a win over Buffalo.
"He's always a factor in the game," Bills coach Chan Gailey said. "He makes things happen."
There were doubts about Bush's durability when he joined the Dolphins after five years with New Orleans. But he has missed only one game with Miami while exceeding 250 touches each of the past two seasons.
"He has certainly shown over the last couple years that he can be an every-down back," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "He can carry the ball or catch it as much as you want to give it to him. Inside, outside, short passes, long passes, blitz pickup — whatever you want, he can do it all. He's a tough guy to match up against."
Miami's offensive line is rooting for Bush to reach the 1,000-yard mark again, center Mike Pouncey said.
"It means a lot to us — we'll get presents," Pouncey said with a laugh. "Reggie had a lot of doubters when he came to Miami. But he's everything for this team."
Bush is the lone quick-strike threat on an offense that lacks speed at receiver and is still evolving with rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. This year Bush has runs of 65 and 53 yards, and more touchdown catches — two — than either of the Dolphins' starting wideouts.
"Reggie's just a versatile player," Tannehill said. "When you have a guy like that, he's a real weapon."
Bush said he would like to remain with the Dolphins because he doesn't want to keep bouncing from city to city, and because he likes Miami and is eager to help restore the franchise's winning tradition that dates to the days of Don Shula.
"I want to be able to bring back the passion about Miami football in the city and build a winning franchise here," he said.
The genial Bush has become the most popular player on a team battling fan apathy after making the playoffs just once since 2001. On Wednesday he and guard Richie Incognito were chosen co-winners of the annual Good Guy Award for being consistently helpful to the media.
Bush was then informed that the winner of the honor each of the past four years has gone on to play elsewhere the next season. Might that be an omen?
Bush laughed and looked at Incognito.
"One of us has to stay, at least," Bush said.