Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Dolphins applied the franchise tag to defensive tackle Randy Starks Monday ahead of the 4 p.m. deadline to decide on franchising players, according to NFL.com.
The tag means Starks will receive a one-year, guaranteed contract worth $8.45 million unless the team and Starks come together on a long-term contract before July. Starks would prefer a long-term contract that includes a large signing bonus to the one-year deal.
While tagging Starks will keep Miami’s stout defensive line together; it also means that cornerback Sean Smith, wide receiver Brian Hartline, and offensive tackle Jake Long will all hit the unrestricted free agent market on March 12.
Tagging Smith would have cost the Dolphins in excess of $10 million, which was far too much for his production and applying the tag to Long would have cost even more at roughly $15 million, which for a player with his injury history is far too much.
After applying the tag to Starks, the Dolphins will enter free agency with approximately $37-39 million in salary cap space to upgrade the roster. The Fins are reportedly interested in wide receiver Mike Wallace, but he’s reportedly asking for a contract worth up to $12 million per season.
Among the offensive tackles available this year in free agency are: Sebastian Vollmer, Long, Branden Albert (unless tagged by Kansas City), and Jermon Bushrod.
The wide receiver class for free agency includes: Greg Jennings, Wes Welker (unless re-signed by New England), Dwayne Bowe, Wallace, Danny Amendola, and Hartline.
The free agent cornerback class will include: Smith, Brent Grimes, Chris Houston, Aqib Talib, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and others.