Starks, who will be turning 30 in December of this year, will be entering his 10th NFL season (and his sixth with Miami).
Dolphins tagging Randy Starks means OT Jake Long, CB Sean Smith and WR Brian Hartline are free to leave Miami.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 4, 2013
The reason for slapping Randy Starks with the franchise tag is likely to work out a long-term deal. However, this will have ramifications beyond the defensive line, which was one of Miami's strongest positions in 2012.
This will not only solidify the line for at least another season, but it will also allow Jared Odrick to work his way into the defensive tackle spot at a more gradual place, giving the Dolphins depth as they will likely continue to seek out a pass-rusher either through the draft or through free agency.
However, finding a pass-rusher in free agency might pose a challenge. With the franchise tag, the Dolphins will owe Starks a guaranteed $8.45 million this season (per the Miami Herald) unless both sides can work out a long-term deal, which could lower the 2013 cap number. This will leave Miami with about $37.5 million in cap space (per Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post) to spend in 2013.
Once you factor in that Miami will need at least $5-6 million to sign its draft picks, the team has about $31 million in cap space to go after other free agents, which likely means that some of its own free agents, like Jake Long, Sean Smith and Chris Clemons, will be let go as Miami pursues a potential deal with one of the three elite receivers available in this season's free-agent class (Mike Wallace, Greg Jennings or Dwayne Bowe).
It should be noted, though, that attempting to sign either of them might be an impediment to any chances of signing any of the big three wide receivers, so the Dolphins could look to one of their five picks in the first three rounds to bolster that position.
In the end, though, it's at least safe to say that Jake Long, Sean Smith and possibly Chris Clemons are on their way out of Miami, while Brian Hartline is a big question mark, depending on what he could get on the open market. Miami has shown that, while it's not afraid to spend big money in free agency, it's not willing to overpay, either.
Signing Starks showed just that. He's not overpaid by any stretch, and he will continue to be a team leader on defense for at least one more season. However, unless Starks and the Dolphins agree to a long-term deal, both he and Paul Soliai will be free agents after this season.
Miami will have until June to work out a long-term deal with Starks.