The Miami Dolphins as you know by now used the Franchise Tag on Randy Starks. He will be guaranteed over 8 million for the season and most see this as 8 million off the books, or the 44 plus million cap space. I wouldn’t be so sure. Jeff Ireland tagged Starks for a reason and it’s not because the tag burned a hole in his pocket.
The reality here is simple. Jeff Ireland views Starks as a play maker on defense and wants to keep him. Over the weekend the two sides apparently were talking but couldn’t get a new deal ironed out in front of today’s deadline to use the tag. Starks “tweeted” over the weekend that he wants to finish his career in Miami and is willing to give the good-ole discount but also made it clear he wasn’t going to take a garbage deal either.
With the tag now in place, Ireland will continue to work out the kinks in the deal that Starks will eventually receive. I do not believe this will hold over the entire season as it did two years ago with Paul Soliai. The situation was different. In the case of Solia’ there were questions regarding his future in Miami and whether or not he had turned the corner in his career. Ireland gambled that previous season wasn’t a fluke but refused to invest long term until he saw continuation. In Starks, it’s clear that he is a vital part to the defense even if he is viewed as somewhat expendable given the teams depth.
I look for Ireland to have a deal ironed out with Starks sometime after the start of free agency allowing him to focus on the financial situation of the teams free agent market transactions.
While there is no question about Starks’ future in Miami, at least for the 2013 season, it has become increasingly apparent that neither Jake Long or Sean Smith will return. Both players are now set to become unrestricted free agents and only the franchise tag would have kept them in Miami barring the Dolphins paying their out of this world demands. Jake Long is apparently seeking over 11 million a season.
The other question mark, Brian Hartline, appears to be a player headed back to Miami. According to a report from a local newspaper, Hartline and the Dolphins are talking about a new contract and though both sides are still apart, it’s likely that Hartline is going to realize the interest in his freedom at 6.6 million a year won’t likely be in huge demand.
In other free agent/franchise tag news, the Dallas Cowboys opened up a can of worms when they used the tag on LB/DE Anthony Spencer. Spencer will move from LB to DE this year and is asking the NFL to award him the tender of a DE not a LB. If that happens, the Cowboys would have to pay Spencer an addition 3 million on the tag.
The Dolphins really were not in the running for Spencer if he hit the market but one player that does stand out is Tennessee Titan TE Jared Cook. Cook and the Titans have been at an impasse due to the belief that Cook should be tagged as a WR and not a TE. A valid argument considering Cook spent more time in the slot than he did in the traditional TE position.
Apparently this impasse has come to a close and the Titans will not use the tag on Cook allowing him to hit free agency. Cook is a big speedy TE who is a serious red-zone threat. He would be a player that the Dolphins would likely show interest in.
Another player that has been the center of speculation is WR Greg Jennings of the Green Bay Packers. Jennings was not tagged and is now free to explore the open market where reports have surfaced over the last two weeks that the WR is looking for a 12 million a year deal. A deal he will not find from Jeff Ireland and the Dolphins. The Packers have not simply decided not to tag Jennings but to use the tag at all. Meaning TE Jermichael Finley will soon become a free agent as well.
The Dolphins can start negotiating with open market free agents on March 9th, 3 days ahead of the start of free agency.