The Miami Dolphins have some deficiencies, it’s true. I bleed aqua (or whatever color you want to refer to the new one as) and orange, and I love my team. Part of loving something unconditionally is being able to admit to both the strengths and weaknesses that it has. In my opinion, there is no stronger trio of interior linemen in the league than Randy Starks, Paul Soliai and Jared Odrick. Odrick is currently signed for next season, but Soliai and Starks both remain unsigned beyond this season. What is one of the biggest strengths of this team could turn into a glaring weakness – and this is something none of us want to see if it is preventable.
According to the PFF ratings, Starks has an unbelievable rating at the position this season. PFF has all three ranked in a highly positive manner, but Starks is off the charts with a 20.8 overall rating. To put that in context, the Dolphins defense’s THIRD place Cameron Wake has an 11.5 PFF rating. Who is between Starks and Wake, you might ask? None other than Jared “Pee-Wee” Odrick who nosed out Wake with a 12.0 PFF rating. Starks rating is good for third overall amongst defensive tackles in the league this season.
Paul Soliai may only have a 7.0 PFF rating, but his effect on the entire defense can be seen despite his minimal stats. Soliai constantly take up two blockers and shuts down running lanes, and his absence earlier this season led to some devastating games by running backs. Soliai is a rare big man with surprising athleticism for his size, one who can both push the pocket and set quarterbacks up for the defensive ends as well as cover a large area in the running game.
The combination of Starks, Odrick and Soliai – can be dominant in this league for the next several years, and the three men have league ages south of 30 years old, and should still have several years of dominance remaining to them before they see a drop off in production. The players strengths and weaknesses balance well when deployed properly, with Starks and Odrick even being versatile enough to kick out to defensive end as the situation demands. Miami has cap room this season, and is also expected to have a great deal of cap room in the offseason (current estimates have Miami sitting with $19M in cap space this season).
I will preclude this with the fact that I am not a “capologist” and may be missing a few nuances of the salary cap. With the estimated $19M in cap room that will roll over into next season, Miami can increase this number with the right contracts for these two, balancing out the impacts a contract extension for both players would have by getting the deals done now. Soliai’s cap number currently sits at $7.375M, and Starks’ number is projected at $8.45M. These are huge dollar amounts for a defensive tackle. Resigning the players to a multiyear deal could slice the cap number for this season in half (or lower) for each player and actually INFLATE the amount of cap space the Dolphins roll over into next year. Unless I missed something here, if Miami does this properly the increased rollover may cancel out the projected space against the cap. By increasing their cap space for this season, rolling that money over into next season – this could be a huge win while retaining two critical members of their defense.
Moves like this have additional effects on the team as well, as Miami doesn’t need to put a huge amount of effort into pursuing defensive linemen in the offseason. Miami is set on the defensive line by resigning these two during the season this year. Miami can focus on upgrading or resigning their offensive line players if possible, upgrading or retaining with Chris Clemons, retaining Brent Grimes and possibly looking at luxury players.