Dolphins Able To Use Franchise Tag…Will They?


Dec 2, 2012; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins tackle Jake Long before a game against the New England Patriots at Sun Life Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Dolphins 23-16. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins and the rest of the NFL can now use tags to secure their own players for the 2013 NFL season by assigning the franchise tag.  In most cases the tag signals an inability of both sides coming together on a longer deal.  In the case of the Miami Dolphins it’s about a player who has questions for a long term future.

None of the Dolphins impending free agents are 100% worth a large contract extension.  Whether it be due to injury history or lack of consistent production.  That does not mean that the team doesn’t value or view one of these players as important enough to apply the tag to.

Jake Long has been discussed at length since before the 2012 season began.  Media and fans alike tossed around the idea of whether it was better to trade the Pro-Bowl LT while he had value.  The Dolphins opted to keep the LT and now are faced with the decision on whether or not they should keep him.

Long missed the ending of the 2012 season for the second in a row.  Adding to the questions surrounding his durability was the lack of Pro-Bowl play from the veteran.  In fact, it could be argued that Long couldn’t outplay the rookie who took his place.

Long would cost the Dolphins between 10-12 million if he is tagged.  He is supposedly wanting to be paid as one of the premium LT’s in the game despite the fact that he hasn’t played at that level in 2 years.

When the name Jake Long gets put away Sean Smith’s name comes up.  Smith has been an up and down NFL corner-back since his rookie season.  At times he has out performed other corners on the team but his inconsistency brings more questions.

Smith is not a shut down corner and while he has the speed to keep up with opposing receivers he lacks the ability to physically take over at the line in press coverage.  Smith is good in pass defense but he lacks the consistency in the take away department.  His inability to take the ball away keeps offenses on the field and he has yet to become a player that can be relied upon game to game.

For the Dolphins however Smith creates a unique problem.  While he is far from a star he is still good.  Despite the fact that he is inconsistent he is not a problem player and works hard.  He still has the potential to be much better.  Is that enough to warrant a deal that Smith is asking for?

Smith wants to be paid around 9 million a year but his production doesn’t warrant that.  A franchise tag will pay him close to that for one season allowing the Dolphins to review his play for another season.  Letting Smith go would create the additional problem of filling out the roster.  The Dolphins are already short one corner and Smith’s departure would put Miami in the position of filling both starting spots in their secondary.

Brian Hartline entered 2012 as a possible roster casualty.  He turned his injury plagued off-season into a professional benchmark.  Amassing over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career, Hartline was the go-to receiver for rookie Ryan Tannehill.

Hartline is not the fastest receiver on the team but he runs solid routes.  His ability to read a defense and make strong cuts allows him to create space for the QB to throw to.  Hartline also has very good hands and rarely drops passes.

Positives aside he has had only one great season.  He is not a red-zone threat with little room to work with and he is not viewed by anyone as a legit WR 1.  Hartline reportedly is seeking between 5-6 million a season which is not consistent with the salaries of a number 2 WR.

If Hartline is seriously expecting to receiver a number 1 WR salary the Dolphins may opt to simply let him walk.   Regardless they will need to make a decision on his future.  That decision starts today with the ability to use the franchise tag.  Something that appears unlikely in the case of Hartline.

Aside from those three the Dolphins don’t have anyone on their impending free agent roster that comes close to warranting the use of the franchise tag.  In all three cases the players have voiced a desire to return to the Dolphins.  The sincerity of those comments could be a different story.