Sign or Pass on Miami Dolphins' Remaining Free Agents
With a little more than a week left until NFL free agents can sign with any team (March 12, 4 p.m. EST), the Miami Dolphins have to decide how many of their own free agents they will actively attempt to keep.
Today, the Dolphins placed the franchise tag on Randy Starks, which will cost them $8.45 million in 2013.
Miami's unrestricted free agents include Reggie Bush, Chris Clemons, Anthony Fasano, Nate Garner, Brian Hartline, Nate Kaeding, Jake Long, Tony McDaniel, Matt Moore and Sean Smith.
Theoretically, they have enough salary cap room to sign all of them. Realistically, it will not happen.
Jeff Ireland will not overpay for any in-house free agent and his "keep" price for the majority of these players is lower than their market value.
Let's look at each player's case, individually.
Reggie Bush has had a good run in Miami and has harvested a loyal South Florida following. The problem for Bush is that the Dolphins already have 2012 fourth-rounder, Lamar Miller, and 2011 second-rounder, Daniel Thomas.
Miami has multiple needs but not at running back.
The Dolphins paid Bush $10 million for the last two seasons, a sum that Bush definitely earned, but if he wants to remain in Miami he will have to sign a much cheaper contract.
Bush will likely wish to remain in the $5 million per season range.
Jeff Ireland views Bush as a luxury and I have to agree.
Keep Price: $2.5 million per year
The Dolphins received some bang for their buck from Chris Clemons during the span of his first contract, one that paid him nearly $2 million in four years.
Miami's fifth-round pick in the 2009 draft had a career year, starting all 16 games and making 98 tackles. The problem is that Clemons, mostly playing free safety, only deflected four passes and intercepted just two passes.
With that said, the 27-year-old Clemons is still viewed as an asset by Jeff Ireland, who is actively working to retain him, according to Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald.
While this is a position that can be upgraded by an interception-machine, Clemons will likely come cheap.
Last year, Anthony Fasano was Ryan Tannehill's favorite red-zone target, catching five touchdown passes.
Fasano is an all-around tight end whose blocking prowess is often overlooked. The issue for Fasano is his inability to break away from the defense, averaging only 8.1 yards per reception in 2012, with his longest gain being 22 yards.
Miami needs a tight end with more speed, but Fasano would be an excellent second option at the position.
Fasano's market value will be somewhere between $3-4 million a year, but he will have to make much less to remain a Dolphin.
Keep Price: $1.5 million per year
When Jake Long failed to play the final quarter of the 2012 season, Nate Garner took over at right tackle and was serviceable.
Adam Beasley of The Miami Herald speculates that Garner's market value will hover around $3 million a year.
The 6'7", 325-pound Garner wants to stay in Miami and will likely grant the Dolphins a discount.
I believe Hartline and his upside have more value than Wes Welker, who will be 32 when the 2013 season kicks off.
Miami's biggest need is at receiver and Hartline's asking price is believed to be $6 million a year, much less than he would make in the open market after accumulating more than 1,000 receiving yards in 2012.
The final deal may be worth less than that, making Hartline a bargain.
The Miami Herald's Armando Salguero reports that a deal between the Dolphins and Hartline is imminent.
As I have discussed before, cutting Dan Carpenter would create $2.7 million in cap space for Miami.
How enamored are the Dolphins with Carpenter and his career field-goal percentage of 81.9?
Nate Kaeding is certainly an option if he is willing to sign for around $1 million.
The free-agent market is full of viable kickers, so chances are someone else will be booting field goals for the Dolphins in 2013.
There is doubt as to whether Jake Long is still an elite left tackle after two injury-plagued seasons.
I believe he is still a solid player and, apparently, so does Jeff Ireland and the Dolphins, who wouldn't be negotiating with him otherwise.
How much does Long want?
A recent rumor has Long aiming for $11 million a year.
I think somewhere between $7-8 million a season.
There is no need for Long to take an incentive-laden deal or a one-year deal to prove his worth, because some team will pay him. He is 27 years old and claims to feel better than ever.
If Long wants to remain in Miami, he will have to make sacrifices. If he is looking to maximize his earnings, it will have to be elsewhere.
I hope Long and the Dolphins can come to terms, but the latest $11 million rumor makes me believe he is as good as gone.
Keep Price: $7 million per year
Tony McDaniel only played in 11 games last season due to a knee injury.
The 6'7", 305-pound McDaniel was slowed by the knee injury and could be a bargain in 2013, according to Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel.
His last contract was a two-year deal worth $6 million.
McDaniel may return to the Dolphins for a little less.
Matt Moore has paid his dues. This is the year he is allowed to start.
As much as the Dolphins would love to have him back, why would Moore return? He stands to make more money elsewhere and, more importantly, he'll have an opportunity to start.
There are plenty of NFL teams with terrible quarterback situations, such as the New York Jets, and Moore is the best available free-agent signal-caller.
This is an easy one.
Verdict: Moore Passes
Sean Smith is in the same predicament as Jake Long. If he's looking for the money grab, it will not be Stephen Ross' cash.
Smith is a good cover corner without a knack for interceptions. He has five interceptions in four seasons and he has missed only one game.
The free-agent market is flooded with starter-caliber cornerbacks such as Derek Cox, Brent Grimes, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Chris Houston and Cary Williams. More cornerbacks, such as Chris Gamble, are likely to be cut.
Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald reports that Smith wants to "get paid" and he may very well receive his wish.
Jeff Ireland will find a replacement and maybe even another starting corner for much less than Smith's asking price.
Keep Price: $6 million per year