Miami Dolphins: How Randy Starks' Franchise Tag Affects Their Offseason

Thomas GaliciaFeatured Columnist IVMarch 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

The Miami Dolphins have decided to slap two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Randy Starks with the franchise tag, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Starks, who will be turning 30 in December of this year, will be entering his 10th NFL season (and his sixth with Miami).

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).

As for the draft, it will likely be in the later rounds that the Dolphins pursue a defensive tackle to add more depth at the position, but they will wait to see how free agency shakes out before deciding whether to add a pass-rusher. The top available free agents at the position are Buccaneers defensive end Michael Bennett and Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora.

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.