Defensive tackle Randy Starks will remain on the Miami Dolphins for at least one more season. The team used its franchise player designation on Starks Monday, the Palm Beach Post and other outlets reported, just hours before the NFL's deadline to use the tag.
The 29-year-old Starks will earn $8.45 million in 2013, becoming an unrestricted free agent after the season unless the team opts to tag him again at 120% of his salary. The team has until July to work out a long-term deal to replace his salary figure and potentially reduce his salary cap number.
Starks has been with the Dolphins since 2008, having spent his first four years in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans. Last season, Starks started all 16 games, recording just 27 tackles but also 4.5 sacks and an interception. He also tipped 4 pass attempts at the line of scrimmage.
Starks was selected to the 2010 Pro Bowl as a Dolphin. In five seasons with the team, he has racked up 22 sacks and 4 interceptions. He is the second player to receive the franchise designation from team general manager Jeff Ireland, in addition to DT Paul Soliai in 2011.
The Dolphins had plenty of options for its franchise tag, picking Starks over RB Reggie Bush, LT Jake Long, CB Sean Smith, and others. They will become unrestricted free agents if they do not re-sign with the team before the start of the new calendar year on March 12.
While Starks may not be the biggest impact player among the names listed above, he also represented the cheapest option among that group. The franchise tag guarantees a player's salary at either the average of the top five salaries at the player's position or 120% of his previous-season pay. Tagging Long would have cost the Dolphins over $14 million next season.
The team clearly thought either Long is not worth that much money, or the Dolphins feel they can sign him for much less without the franchise tag. The same goes for Smith, who would have earned over $10 million with the franchise tag.
Starks' franchise tag will reduce the Dolphins' space under the NFL salary cap to approximately $36.5 million, according to the Post. Starks will be the highest-paid player on the team in terms of base salary, and he is behind only LB Karlos Dansby in terms of his salary cap number.
The Dolphins are among the teams interested in free agent WR Mike Wallace (formerly of Pittsburg), who could eat up a large portion of the team's cap money. Miami could also use more of its cap space on new deals for Smith, Bush, and Long, all of whom will likely test the free agent waters later this month.