Breaking Down Miami Dolphins' Franchise Tag Options
The Miami Dolphins may be in a position of strength when it comes to salary cap room and draft picks. However, there is the issue of retaining some of their own free agents.
The Dolphins have 18 impending free agents. Of those 18, there's a good chance that the Dolphins will at least try to retain six. And at least two of them could be overpaid by the Dolphins, which will infuriate me to no end (looking at you, Sean Smith!).
But like the rest of the NFL, the Dolphins also have the franchise tag at their disposal. Is there anyone on the Dolphins who would be worthy of the franchise tag, which would for one year pay the player the average of the top-five salaries at that player's position?
Let's take a look at Miami's six potential franchise tag options.
Franchise tag numbers via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
Sean Smith—Tag Price: $10.668 Million
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I had writer's block trying to think of what to say about tagging Sean Smith.
Looking at the price it would cost, the answer is a simple no. Sean Smith isn't worth nearly $11 million; he's not even worth half that amount.
But the sad fact is cornerbacks in the NFL go for big money, and some team, even if it's not the Dolphins, is going to sign Smith for at least $8 million per year—which is still $3-4 million more than I would pay.
The price is what scares me off of re-signing Smith. He's simply not worth the cost of a second-tier cornerback. If you won't pay $8 million, there's no reason to pay $10.668 million, which is obviously more than what Smith would get on the open market.
Verdict: No, dear God no!
Randy Starks—Tag Price: $8.306 Million
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Who wasn't a fan of Randy Starks last season? The guy started off the season by stopping the run and actually forcing some turnovers of his own. Then he spent the whole year alongside Soliai, anchoring the defensive line and allowing Cameron Wake to do his thing in the defensive backfield.
It would be a shame for Miami to lose Starks after the season he had alongside Soliai, but that's not to say Starks is irreplaceable enough to garner the franchise tag designation.
The price itself isn't too bad for one more year of Starks, but Miami has to look forward to the future like it has done with the rest of the team. They have Kheeston Randall to develop, as well as the idea that Jared Odrick should move into the interior. Both guys are young and will likely be entrusted with anchoring the defensive line for many years to come.
Where does this leave Starks? Odds are, he's the odd man out in this situation. Starks turns 30 in December. While having him on for one more year under the franchise tag seems like it would be a good idea, he'd rather have one last big long-term contract, which the Dolphins might give him, but for much cheaper than the franchise tag price of $8.306 million.
Reggie Bush—Tag Price: $8.079 Million
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The open secret around Bleacher Report is that their handsome, intelligent, debonair and modest Featured Columnist Thomas Galicia wants Reggie Bush to re-sign with the Miami Dolphins so badly that he has written two articles explaining why it has to be done.
So you're probably expecting him to stop referring to himself in the third person (all right I'm done), and you're also expecting me to defend the possibility of the Dolphins franchise tagging him.
No, I'm not going to endorse the Dolphins giving Reggie Bush the franchise tag, but he'll likely take something between $3.5-5 million to stay here, given his expressed desire to stay in South Florida.
Why overpay someone like that, especially considering the position he plays just happens to be the Dolphins' deepest position?
Verdict: Not likely unless Jeff Ireland changes his heart and decides to overcompensate by overpaying Reggie. In other words, no.
Chris Clemons—Tag Price: $6.798 Million
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Of Miami's free agents, Clemons is the one who would be the second-most likely player to receive the franchise tag.
The price itself isn't too bad at $6.798 million, although a long-term contract with Clemons (which the Dolphins would likely rather have) would be cheaper for 2013.
I'm not a big fan of Clemons individually, but as a part of the Dolphins' secondary, he's a nice compliment to Reshad Jones, who's working his way up to being one of the best safeties in the NFL and will be an impending free agent in 2014 unless the Dolphins can agree to an extension with him (this isn't out of the realm of possibility).
Expect Clemons back in Miami, but the franchise tag won't likely be needed in his case.
Verdict: No; expect a long-term deal.
Brian Hartline—Tag Price: $10.357 Million
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According to The Miami Herald, the Dolphins have already begun talking to both Chris Clemons and wide receiver Brian Hartline about new contracts for both players.
It's already been reported that Hartline's asking price will be at around $6 million per year (per The Miami Herald), so in that case, why bother to franchise Hartline and pay him $10 million?
Jake Long—Tag Price: $15 Million
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Jake Long doesn't fit the Dolphins' blocking scheme.
It's really that simple when it comes down to whether or not the Dolphins should keep Long or get rid of him. He's not athletic enough for the zone-blocking scheme, and while he was decent in 2012, it did show.
He's also going to be wooed by other teams, most likely the Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, or St. Louis Rams. His asking price from the Dolphins might be $10 million per year (per ProFootballTalk.com). He will get more than that on the open market, but is worth less than that in terms of the Dolphins.
So to answer your question: no way this guy gets tagged, unless the Dolphins can somehow work out a deal with any teams interested in Long. Miami could tag Long, then allow Long to negotiate a new deal with another team while the Dolphins in turn negotiate a trade with said team.
Will it happen? I highly doubt it: The Dolphins would actually be negotiating from a position of weakness. They don't want Long for that price, and teams will attempt to take advantage of that. Miami will likely just let Long go.