What Franchise Tag for Randy Starks Means for Miami Dolphins

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IMarch 4, 2013

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 07:  Defensive tackle Randy Starks #94 of the Miami Dolphins celebrates after an interception with Karlos Dansby #58 against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on October 7, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

One of the Miami Dolphins' strong points in 2012 was the ability of their defensive line against the run. With defensive tackle Randy Starks set to hit free agency, that strength was threatened. 

According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, the Dolphins have placed the franchise tag on Starks, preventing him from hitting free agency.

It was easy to see this coming; Starks was identified as the only sensible option for the franchise tag.

Even though it's not a surprise, the news likely doesn't sit too well with Starks, who related the franchise tag to the clearance rack via Twitter, and said he wants to stay with the team long-term.

The tag, which keeps Starks off the open market, pays him $8.3 million for 2013. The Dolphins could still work out a long-term deal with Starks, but the team has until July 15 to do so. The tag essentially starts the timer on a long-term deal.

The move doesn't have much of an impact on the other Dolphins free agents. With high tag numbers for left tackle Jake Long ($15.4 million), cornerback Sean Smith ($10.66 million), wide receiver Brian Hartline ($10.35 million) and running back Reggie Bush ($10.35 million), none of those four were expected to get the tag.

The only one of those four who is expected to be back on a long-term deal is Hartline.

Starks is the only one who makes sense economically, so the move was a no-brainer. He was one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL in ProFootballFocus.com's pass-rushing productivity, and had the sixth-most total pressures (36 combined hurries, hits and sacks) of any defensive tackle.

Figuring out Starks' future is just the first answer to many questions along the defensive line.

The Dolphins will need to work out a long-term deal with Starks at some point, unless they want to face the prospect of completely turning over their starting defensive tackle spot 12 months from now, when veteran defensive tackle Paul Soliai also becomes a free agent.

I've floated the idea that the Dolphins could move on from Soliai's $7.875 million cap hit—picking up $6.3 million in cap space in the process. That's way too much to pay a player who contributed on just 54.7 percent of his team's snaps last season, and has never played more than 55 percent of downs.

Defensive end Jared Odrick could, and should, be asked to move inside where his skill set will be of better use. Dustin Godin of 360Dolphins.com posted an interesting stat on Twitter: five of Odrick's six sacks in 2012 came as a defensive tackle.

Moving Odrick to defensive tackle, however, would create a logjam at defensive tackle with Starks, Solia, Odrick and defensive tackle Tony McDaniel, a formidable rotational tackle. That logjam would be solved by moving on from Soliai.

The Dolphins have question marks at defensive end whether Odrick plays there or not. At least this way, they won't have so many question marks at defensive tackle, as well.


Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.