Oct 28, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Miami Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith (24) gestures on the field against the New York Jets during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Dolphins won 30-9. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Ranking The Dolphins’ Key 2013 Expiring Contracts

We are now three quarters of the way through the 2012 season. The Miami Dolphins have a significant number of key players with contracts expiring at the end of the season and I am going to take this chance to rank these players in order of how important it is to resign each player.

1. Sean Smith
Smith has not been an all-pro cornerback this season. However, he has made great improvements since last year. Smith’s size allows him to compete with receivers that had simply crushed the Dolphins defense in the past. The Dolphins have very poor depth at the cornerback position and can ill afford to lose him. Smith is also young enough to continue his improvement and possibly become an elite player.

2. Jake Long
Long was injured during the Patriots game and it is quite likely that the injury is season ending. Long has had his weakest season as a pro this year. He will garner a very large contract and there are questions about his ability to fit into the current regime’s blocking scheme. I do not agree with this opinion. I think he is talented enough to adapt and the team should not throw away talent due to a regime change.

Because of the large investment necessary, Long is ranked behind Smith in necessity to resign. However, it is a very close second. It would be a very bad start to the off-season if Jake Long walks. He has proven that he is the leader of the offensive line and has performed at a high level in the past. The franchise tag might be used on Long, which would give him a one year contract equal to the average of the top five left tackles in the league. This might be the best option if the team is still unsure about him.

3. Randy Starks
The bright spot for the Dolphins this year has been the run defense. It has been stout in most games and ranks among the league’s best units. Starks has been a key performer for this unit. He may get offered really big money from another team. The team also has the possibility of moving Jared Odrick inside and bringing in another pass rusher on the outside. Starks is a very good player, but not impossible to replace. This is the first player on the list I could live with the Dolphins allowing to walk.

4. Brian Hartline
Hartline briefly lead the league in receiving yards, but soon after returned to his normal level of production. Hartline is a solid number two receiver and a very hard worker. Unfortunately he lacks the physical ability to consistently stretch the field. The team needs to upgrade at the position, but retaining Hartline would still be in their best interests. Hartline is likely to come at a reasonable price and I expect him to be retained.

5. Reggie Bush
Bush has been a disappointment in the second half of the season. The Dolphins have been unable to consistently establish the run and the offense has sputtered as a result. This puts Bush’s future in Miami in question. The presence of Lamar Miller makes Bush expendable. At this point, Bush will only be retained if he gives the team a discount. Bush is a player I like, but he has proven he isn’t an every down back like he wanted to be and the contract he receives must reflect that.

The good news is that if he does leave, Bush is unlikely to go to the New York Jets due to the animosity that developed between him and the Jets during this season due to the “Hot Sauce” incident. At the beginning of the season I saw the Jets as a likely landing spot if Bush was not resigned.

6. Chris Clemons
Clemons has had a solid season, though he has not looked as exciting as his counterpart Reshad Jones (who looks like he could be one of the league’s best in a few years). Clemons is an acceptable starter at this point. I do not expect the market to be extremely competitive for his services so, while he is low on this list, he should be fairly easily retained.

These six free agents are the ones the team should be most concerned about. This off-season will provide the team with a big opportunity for change. The team has a lot of open money, but a lot of players becoming free agents. It will be interesting to see if the team focuses more on retaining players or if the front office is aggressive in free agency.

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Tags: Jake Long Miami Dolphins Sean Smith

  • Ranadicus

    Sean Smith should only be re-signed if we plan to run a press-man scheme. He’s terrible in zone coverage.

    Jake Long could be in the Hall of Fame one day if he can stay healthy enough but to be honest Jonathan Martin is probably a better fit if we want to run a moving pocket type of zone scheme. That having been said when Long is on his game he’s well worth the money.

    Brian Hartline is on pace for 80 catches and 1188 yards. I’d hardly call that his “usual production”. Not to mention he was open deep all day against the Pats.

    Chris Clemons will probably never be an elite safety but I don’t see anybody in the draft who I think will be either. Should be able to re-sign him with no trouble.

    • bobbyd

      Many good fs in this draft

  • redteg02

    “The franchise tag might be used on Long, which would give him a one year contract equal to the average of the top five left tackles in the league.” Not right. Long would get 120% of his current salary next year if tagged, over 15 million. Which would most likely make him one of the 10 highest paid players in the league.

  • Steve

    I have to say, (and I hate to say), but Jake Long has to go. I like him, but I look at it from a sheer money perspective. Is the money we will have to pay worth what we will actually get? This is the second year in a row that he has played 3/4 of a season. If the Dolphins stayed hot, and we were making a post-season run, he would not be a part of it. I think that if we took the money we would pay him, we could add talent and depth that would be more bang for the buck. I see a bright future for Miami. I like the direction we appear to be going. It just seems like moving in that direction is looking more like moving away from Jake Long.

  • gofins60

    Long is done in Miami. He went from being elite to below average. A decent LT (Martin?) can replace him, and probably be a better fit for the offense. The money saved can be spent on playmakers. I’d sign Smith, but also pick up at least 2 corners in the draft and free agency. Not sure about Reggie; playcalling and the o-line had a lot to do with his poor production.

  • Fins4ever

    1. Smith
    2. Starks
    3. Hartline
    4. Bush

    Does not matter after that. Agree with others. Long is done in Miami. Someone will overpay.

  • Esteban Perez

    cant agree at all.

    1. Hartline

    2. long

    3. bush

    4. starks

    after that it doesn’t really matter. Long should be signed but with an easy out for the team in case his best years are behind him and back load the contract with minimal guaranteed. Hartline and Bush are going to be important on developing Tannehill by keeping him familiar with his surroundings. Not to mention who is gonna step in? Hartline is the best receiver on the team and Bush is easily the best running back. Thomas is a fumble machine and apparently a soft skull and Lamar Miller though very promising is not quite ready to start. Bush’s numbers are due to lack of touches not bad play. You can expect a 100 yard game when he only gets between 9 and 14 touches a game. And hes still young and has a lot left in the tank. Starks would be nice to keep around but not essential to the team. Biggest chance of a tag I think, see if he can do it again next year. Smith should be happy if hes even offered a contract with the way hes been playing. He’s giving up way too much yardage no run support, honestly not really worth keeping. If he’s willing to come back for cheap ok but otherwise let him walk. Clemons is another maybe if he’s cheap. Not great in coverage but has gotten better and has improved in run support but there should be a lot of safeties in this draft. I day pick up a veteran free agent corner, A GOOD ONE!, and draft one high like 1st or 2nd round. Grimes and Rogers-Cromartie will be free agents, maybe?