Randy Starks is in line to earn $8.5 million this season. He might not be too excited about it.
Starks, apparently in reference to learning he would have the franchise tag pegged on him by the Miami Dolphins, tweeted on Sunday, “I want to be a dolphin!!! Not just for one more year.’’
The Dolphins on Monday placed the one-year tender on the defensive tackle. That means Miami has for now chosen to hold onto Starks, a two-time Pro Bowler, over several other top free agents on the team. Other options included tackle Jake Long, running back Reggie Bush, cornerback Sean Smith and wide receiver Brian Hartline.
Monday’s move makes it more likely that Long, a four-time Pro Bowler who was the No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft, has played his last game for Miami. He might seek a contract in excess of $10 million per season, which could be too rich for the Dolphins.
Bush, Smith and Hartline will be free to talk to any team March 12 if the Dolphins can’t reach a deal with them by then. Bush wants to return to Miami, but it remains to be seen if he would agree to a contract to the Dolphins’ liking.
Placing the tag on Starks shows the desire the Dolphins have to keep intact their strong defensive line. The line includes defensive end Cameron Wake, who was All-Pro last season and made his second Pro Bowl while being fourth in the NFL in sacks at 15, and defensive tackle Paul Soliai, a former Pro Bowler.
“We have a very good defensive line, and keeping that intact is a focus of mine,” general manager Jeff Ireland said at the NFL Scouting Combine last month in Indianapolis.
While Starks apparently wants more than just a one-year commitment from the Dolphins, that remains possible. Starks still can negotiate a long-term deal with Miami as well as any other team in the NFL.
However, any other team that were to sign Starks would have to send Miami two first-round picks. It’s highly unlikely any team would regard Starks as a good enough player to do that.
Starks last season earned his second Pro Bowl berth, making the team as an injury replacement. Starks had 4.5 sacks and 27 tackles in 2012.
With the franchise tag placed on Starks, the Dolphins will head into free agency with about $37 million to spend. The emphasis on free agency is expected to be on offense and in the secondary.