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Dolphins place franchise tag on Randy Starks

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Randy Starks (l.) received the franchise tag (USA Today Sports Images)

The Miami Dolphins have decided that among their lengthy list of unrestricted free agents this offseason, they will use the franchise tag on two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Randy Starks, according to multiple reports.

Starks earned $3.85 million in 2012, the final season of a five-year, $20 million contract Starks signed with the Dolphins as an unrestricted free agent on March 1, 2008. Barring a multi-year extension, Starks will earn $8.45 million in fully guaranteed base salary once hte franchise tender has been signed.

In his five seasons with the Dolphins, Starks has started 67 of 80 games and posted 22 sacks, including 4.5 sacks in each of the last two seasons, to go along with four interceptions. Starks has been a full-time starter over the last four seasons, logging nearly 70 percent of the Dolphins' defensive snaps over that time.

With Starks receiving the franchise tag, several key Dolphins will hit the free agent market when the 2013 league year begins at 4:01 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 12.

Dolphins who could be on the move include left tackle Jake Long, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft a four-time Pro Bowler. Though the Dolphins had around $45 million in cap space, they could not justify using the tag on Long as it would have cost them $15.36 million, a mandatory 20 increase over his 2012 cap number.

In addition to Long, cornerback Sean Smith, safety Chris Clemons, wide receiver Brian Hartline and running back Reggie Bush now have a clear path to the free agent market.

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