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Franchise tag deadline hangs over Starks, Dolphins

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The NFL’s deadline to negotiate long term deals with franchise tagged players is two weeks from today. For the Miami Dolphins, that’s 14 days to lower defensive tackle Randy Starks’ $8.45 million salary cap number.

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Designed by the NFL Players Association as a way to reward top of the line free agents with fully guaranteed money while a new contract is negotiated, the franchise tag has become a source of disrespect in the eyes of NFL players. Instead of a reward for outstanding play, and a way for a team to say they need that player, it's a slap in the face as the player does not get long term stability, and could see everything slip away if a career ending injury is sustained during the one year franchise tag.

For the Miami Dolphins and defensive tackle Randy Starks, this is exactly the situation in which they find themselves. The Dolphins did not want to lose Starks, a two time Pro Bowl player and one of the anchors to their run defense, in free agency this year. For Starks, who was looking for one long term deal to finish his career, the tag was an insult to his level of play.

Now, the two sides have two weeks to find a common ground.

According to NFL rules, teams and franchise players may negotiate a long term contract to replace the tag anytime before July 15. If no deal is completed, the player will spend the season on the franchise tender, and then become a free agent (assuming a second tag is not applied) in the offseason.

Starks sat out all of the Dolphins' voluntary offseason workouts, protesting the lack of a long term deal. However, he did report to the mandatory minicamp, and seems to be set to report to training camp as required.

Miami, meanwhile, has not given any indication that they are in a hurry to re-sign Starks. The veteran turns 30 this year, and the Dolphins have a glut of defensive linemen developing right now. They could simply let Starks play out the tag this year, and possibly let him walk away in free agency next year, as Jared Odrick, Kheeston Randall, Vaughn Martin, A.J. Francis, Chris Burnette, or Tracy Robertson develops into a starting defensive tackle.

Whatever happens, the deadline for a decision is fast approaching. The Dolphins have over $17 million in salary cap space right now, so there is not an urgency to get additional cap space by reworking the franchise tender. That could be a bad sign for Starks.

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