The deadline for NFL teams to make use of their franchise tag passed on Monday and the Miami Dolphins were among those to put their tag into play. The Dolphins had several possible options when it came to who they could use their tag on, but settled on defensive tackle, Randy Starks.
Starks has been with the Dolphins for the last two seasons, collecting 61 total tackles, three interceptions and nine sacks during that time. The numbers are not the kind that stand out and make him feel like a must-have, but Starks is a key component to a defensive line that was tough as nails in 2012. The Dolphins defense ranked seventh overall last season, and by franchising Starks, the Dolphins make sure they will have everyone on the front line coming back in 2013.
Of all the possibilities the Dolphins were facing, franchising Starks was among the best moves they could have made.
It assures a level of continuity among a defensive front seven that was very successful at times last season. Another year of playing with the same guys, in the same system and with the same coaching staff in place is bound to pay dividends, and Starks was the key to making that happen. General manager Jeff Ireland deserves a nod for realizing this and making sure Starks did not slip away into free agency.
The tag also locks Starks in at $8.45 million for the year. This may seem like a large number for a 29 year old coming off of a 4.5 sack season, but the kept stats are not usually the areas where Starks makes the most impact. He earns his money in the way he disrupts the opponents run game and passing schemes, and $8.5 million is the league average in this situation.
There is no telling what Starks would have been able to earn on the free market, and defensive lineman are among the highest paid players on the field. If the Dolphins had allowed him to enter free agency, there would have been the possibility that the price for his services would get pushed beyond what they were willing to pay.
Using the franchise tag allowed the Dolphins to avoid all of the possible free agency scenarios, and most importantly, guaranteed the Dolphins offense would not have to face Starks as an opponent in 2013. It would have been a nightmare to see him line up alongside Vince Wilfork next season and when you look at it from that point of view, the $8.5 million feels very well used, indeed.