The latter part of that headline was beginning to feel like a formality, and now it’s just been finalized (maybe, probably, likely…free agency!).
Instead of choosing to retain Jake Long with the franchise tag, the Dolphins elected to use their tag on defensive tackle Randy Starks, a more affordable move that will cost $8.45 million for a one year deal that’s fully guaranteed. As a general rule in life, making 305-pound men angry is not a wise decision. So Jeff Ireland should probably hide somewhere in his George Costanza office bunker…
I want to be a dolphin!!! Not just for one more year….
— Randy Starks (@starks94) March 3, 2013
Sorry about that, Randy. But this is likely just a temporary solution, with the Dolphins now working towards a long-term contract before the July 15 deadline to reach such a deal with a franchised player. At 29 years old and with an average of 3.6 sacks per year over his nine seasons, a long-term contract will pay Starks an annual sum that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of his franchise tag value, and most likely a little less (Pro Football Focus graded him as a player who was worth only $3.2 million in 2012). Hence the inevitability of the tag today, which becomes a strategic move to buy more time.
Long, meanwhile, is potentially setting himself up to flounder once he does his belly flop into the free agency pool. He’s missed six games over the past two seasons, and health is especially crucial for a left tackle, particularly one who’s protecting the blind side of a sophomore quarterback. His most recent injury is quite concerning since triceps ailments usually aren’t kind to a tackle’s career longevity.
Yet he’s still reportedly set to demand $11 million annually. That’s on par with what he was paid yearly throughout the life of his rookie contract, and it’s also on pace with the yearly salary given to Cleveland’s Joe Thomas, who’s widely regarded as the league’s best left tackle.
Long and Thomas were ranked first and second by ESPN last summer. The differences? Thomas hasn’t missed a single game, there isn’t widespread speculation that he’d be better off moving to right tackle, and his team didn’t draft a replacement for him early last spring (Jonathan Martin would slide in for Long immediately, and easily).
Stay cruel and cold, NFL.