Depending on whom you ask, the average career length of an NFL player spans either 3.2 seasons or six seasons.
The former stems from National Football League Players Association calculations while the latter comes from the NFL's data. Big surprise (sarcasm).
But convoluted numbers aside, one thing is for sure: Stars soak in the spotlight for an even shorter period of time. As the focal points of their respective offenses and defenses, they endure unfathomable bruising and battering. Nobody can bear that kind of beating for more than a handful of years.
This same logic will apply to many of the Miami Dolphins stars as well. There are exceptions, sure, but the following seven players might not be in limelight by 2014.
After three seasons meddling on Miami's depth chart, nose tackle Paul Soliai finally realized his potential in 2010. Soliai racked up 33 tackles and two sacks in 14 games, showing he can be a top-tier space eater in the Dolphins 3-4 scheme.
However, Soliai posted those numbers in his contract year. Once he signs a lucrative, long-term deal, there's no telling how Soliai will react.
This is a bit of a long shot, but the one-year wonder label is cause for concern. Hopefully Soliai will be peaking in 2014, but there is certainly a chance he becomes irrelevant before then.
Even though Ronnie Brown will turn 29 in December, he definitely still has a handful of productive seasons left in the tank. Brown has played in a committee for his entire career, so his carries have been somewhat diminished—and that should elongate his career.
But does he have three great seasons left? Probably not.
Brown figures to play elsewhere in 2011, but if he were to stay in Miami, he would surely be ushered out by Daniel Thomas by the time the 2014 season rolls around.
Considering Ricky Williams has reportedly seriously contemplated retirement, he's an obvious addition to this list.
Based on his play last season (4.2 yards per carry), it's not entirely far-fetched for Williams to play for another season or two. But there's no way Williams lasts until 2014, let alone remains a star or key contributor for an NFL team.
With Joey Porter and Jason Taylor showing signs of age and decline, the Dolphins were desperate for a young pass rusher to emerge during the 2009 season. Most assumed newly acquired linebacker Cameron Wake would answer the call, but instead, it was Randy Starks.
Despite a season of seven sacks and 42 tackles, the Dolphins moved Starks to nose tackle in 2010. Because of Paul Soliai's success, Miami will move Starks back to defensive end in 2011, but there's no guarantee he will regain form.
Starks will have little room for failure with youngsters Jared Odrick and Phillip Merling yearning for reps. If Starks can't replicate the speed and skill-set he utilized in 2009, he might be an irrelevant player by 2014.
Over the past seven seasons, Vernon Carey has quietly become a staple in the Dolphins offense. He has been the team's starting right tackle (moved to LT for one season in '07) for six years, and didn't miss a start from 2006 to 2009.
But how much longer will Carey be able to play with such great consistency and durability? He will turn 30 in July, so perhaps he is just entering the twilight of his career.
Carey will be 33 when the 2014 season arrives, and technically there's no reason to believe he won't continue to thrive. But with age comes increased chance of injury and declination, and that could hit Miami's tackle over the next three years.
In 2009, Lousaka Polite was a one-man wrecking crew—paving rushing lanes on the NFL's fourth-best rushing attack and, more famously, posting a perfect conversion rate.
But 2010 was a different story. Miami's running game ranked just 21st (not entirely his fault, obviously), and Polite was nowhere near as effective with the ball in his hands.
The Dolphins drafted H-back Charles Clay during April's draft, and he or Lex Hilliard could challenge Polite for the starting fullback job this season. Only a select few fullbacks seem to thrive in the NFL for more than a handful of seasons anyway, so there's a good chance Polite is irrelevant by 2014.
Miami fans seem to have grown wary of Channing Crowder's big mouth-small production pattern. Not to mention, he has missed a combined 10 games over the past two seasons alone.
Setting aside his shortcomings, Crowder provides invaluable swagger, leadership and football I.Q. to a young and budding Dolphins defense. His intangibles cannot be measured in statistics, and you have to give him credit for continually retaining his starting job from all of the potential replacements brought in over the years (Tim Dobbins, Reggie Torbor, etc.).
However, the odds of Crowder being relevant in three years is miniscule. He is continually plagued by injuries, and that should only become a more pressing problem as he ages. The Dolphins have A.J. Edds and Tim Dobbins waiting in the wings, and 2011 or 2012 could be Crowder's last in Miami.