Published July 28, 2011
MIAMI – Nine years later, the Miami Dolphins have again traded for a New Orleans Saints running back who won the Heisman Trophy.
This time it's Reggie Bush.
The Dolphins completed a trade for Bush on Thursday by negotiating a new contract with him. Saints coach Sean Payton confirmed the deal, which sends reserve safety Jonathon Amaya to New Orleans and also involves an exchange of undisclosed draft picks.
Miami acquired former Heisman winner Ricky Williams from the Saints in 2002, with mixed results. He won an NFL rushing title with the Dolphins, but they haven't won a playoff game since that trade.
Bush agreed to a two-year contract for nearly $10 million with the Dolphins, a person familiar with the negotiations said. The person confirmed the agreement to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Dolphins hadn't announced the deal.
Bush was due about $11.8 million this season, the final year of his contract with the Saints, who face salary-cap constraints.
"It would have been hard for us to keep him at that number," Payton said.
Trade talks with Miami began late Wednesday. Bush's agent, Joel Segal, worked with Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland until after 2 a.m. Thursday on the terms of a new contract.
Later in the morning Bush agreed to the deal and was en route to Miami. The Dolphins begin practicing Friday, but because Bush signed a new contract, the NFL's post-lockout calendar requires he wait until Aug. 4 to join practice.
"Change is never easy but I look forward to building something special in Miami and can't wait to embark on this new journey!" Bush said while sending a series of tweets. "To the city of New Orleans you will always have a place in my heart. ... I love you guys you are my family & I will never forget our good times. ... I wish the New Orleans Saints the best of luck I will always be a fan! The team, coaches, and fans will be deeply missed!"
Miami sought a running back to pair with second-round draft choice Daniel Thomas. Last year's leading rushers, Williams and Ronnie Brown, are free agents.
The Dolphins remain in the market to acquire a quarterback to compete with Chad Henne for the starting job, and they've reportedly talked with the Denver Broncos about acquiring Kyle Orton.
The Saints hope Amaya can contribute as a punt returner. He signed with Miami as an undrafted rookie free agent last year and played in 10 games, all off the bench.
While the injury-plagued Bush has been paid handsomely since signing his six-year rookie contract worth up to $62 million, his pro career has never reached the heights he and many fans expected when he was selected second overall in the 2006 draft.
Bush has had his share of highlight-reel touchdowns on punt returns, receptions and runs, and he helped the Saints win the Super Bowl in February 2010 — in Miami. But he has never been to a Pro Bowl or even rushed for as much as 600 yards in a season.
"When he was selected, it was going to be very difficult for him ever to maybe live up to some people's expectations," Payton said. "I do know this, though — around the league, he's a player that's dangerous and feared and well-respected."
Last season he missed eight games, and during the other eight games was used as a role player, with only 36 carries for 150 yards and just 34 receptions for 208 yards. Knee and leg injuries forced Bush to miss playing time each of the past four seasons — a total of 20 games.
But the speedy Bush gives the Dolphins big-play potential they've lacked. Last season Miami ranked third-worst in the NFL last year in scoring, rushing touchdowns, yards per carry and rushes of 10 yards or more.
The Heisman Trust no longer recognizes Bush as the winner of its award. Bush relinquished his title to it in 2010 after an NCAA investigation concluded the former Southern California star and his family accepted improper benefits from would-be sports agents while Bush was still playing for USC.
The same probe led the Bowl Championship Series to vacate the Trojans' 2004 BCS national title.
"I don't know if there has been a guy more under the microscope than Reggie around this league for a lot of reasons for the last five years," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. "At times he has handled it very well, and I think at times it was pretty overwhelming for him. ... When I look at the five years with him, man, we had some great times."
Soon after the Saints made a trade for a second first-round pick in April's NFL draft to take Alabama Heisman winner Mark Ingram, Bush wrote: "It's been fun New Orleans," on his Twitter site. Bush later said he regretted that comment and hoped to find a way to stay with New Orleans.
Payton had consistently said there remained a place in his wide-open offense for Bush. But after a salary cap of around $120 million was included in Monday's labor agreement that ended the lockout, it became apparent New Orleans would have trouble paying Bush what he wanted while addressing other needs.
Before the lockout, the Saints re-signed running back Pierre Thomas to a four-year, $12 million extension. New Orleans also is high on Chris Ivory, who made the squad as an undrafted rookie last season. He filled in while both Bush and Thomas were hurt, and wound up leading the club in yards rushing with 716 yards and TDs rushing with five. It all made for a crowded backfield.
In his five-year pro career, Bush has rushed 524 times for 2,090 yards — an average of 4.0 yards per carry — and 17 touchdowns. He also has 294 receptions for 2,142 yards and 12 TDs. He also has four career TDs on punt returns.
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this report.