The Miami Dolphins have placed the franchise tag on defensive tackle Randy Starks, guaranteeing the two-time Pro Bowl selection a one-year salary of $8.45 million in 2013.
Using the franchise tag on Starks ensures that Miami’s defensive line, which has been the strength of the team since 2009, remains intact one more season because all four starters will be returning.
Starks, who began his career with the Dolphins as a reserve and developed into a two-time Pro Bowler, contributed 27 tackles, 4.5 sacks and one interception. He was named a Pro Bowl alternate in 2012 for his contributions on a defensive line that limited opponents to 4.0 yards per carry.
Tagging Starks, who just completed a five-year, $20.5 million deal he signed with Miami in 2008, deletes the Dolphins’ available cap space from $45 million to less than $38 million. But it is possible the Dolphins could preserve more cap space by signing Starks to a mutli-year deal before the June 15 deadline, which is when he’s required to sign the franchise tag.
However, if Starks, 29, signs the contract his 2013 salary will be fully guaranteed.
Starks has started 67 games in five seasons for the Dolphins, contributing 176 tackles, 22 sacks and four interceptions.
With Miami committing $8.45 million to Starks, the Dolphins presently have $45.45 million of the team's cap space ($123 million) allotted to seven defensive players.
Linebackers Karlos Dansby ($8.6 million) and Kevin Burnett ($5.7M), defensive tackles Paul Soliai ($7.4M) and Starks ($8.45M), and cornerbacks Richard Marshall ($5.7M) and Dimitri Patterson ($4.6M) account for nearly 40 percent of the team’s cap space, which is a lopsided distribution considering how much has been allowed to the seven highest paid offensive players ($17.6 million).
The Dolphins will likely level out the imbalance in free agency considering the Dolphins will likely add a couple frontline receivers, a tight end or two, and offensive linemen when NFL free agency begins on March 12.
Placing the franchise tag on Starks virtually guarantees Jared Odrick, Miami’s 2010 first-round pick, who split time at defensive end and defensive tackle last season, will remain in a similar role.
However, Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland plans to add more pass rushers to the team this offseason, and it is possible the Dolphins will sign a reasonably priced free agent or draft one early in the 2013 draft.
Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby, who are both coming off their rookie season, are presently the only other pure pass rushers on the team outside of Cameron Wake.
The only other time the Dolphins used the franchise tag this decade was to lock up nose tackle Paul Soliai in 2011. That season Miami guaranteed Soliai a $12.46 million contract to prevent him from hitting the free agent market. The next year Soliai signed a two-year deal worth $12 million with Miami because the free agent market had dried up while everyone waited on the signing of Peyton Manning and Mario Williams, and Soliai was opposed to relocating his family.