From the combine: Jeff Ireland says Dolphins undecided on franchise tag

Brian McIntyre
Shutdown Corner

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Miami Dolphins have a lengthy list of starters headed toward unrestricted free agency. Left tackle Jake Long headlines the group, which consists of cornerback Sean Smith, safety Chris Clemons, defensive tackle Randy Starks, wide receiver Brian Hartline, tight end Anthony Fasano and running back Reggie Bush.

Teams can use the franchise tag up until March 4 and Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland says his team has not made a decision on using the tag.

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"It’s a resource, certainly," Ireland said. "You have to evaluate how negotiations are going with certain particular players but there’s a lot of things that go into the franchise tag, a lot of different opinions, a lot of different aspects of when you use it, when you don’t use it, why you use it.

"In terms of this year there’s certainly a likelihood that we could use it. But on particularly who, right now we haven’t made that decision yet."

The Dolphins currently have over $44 million in available cap space, but are not expected to use the tag on Long. The franchise tag for the offensive lineman is projected to be worth around $9.7 million (based on a league-wide cap number of $121 million), but because Long had a cap number of $12.8 million, his franchise tag would be worth $15.36 million, a mandatory 20 percent increase over his cap number.

A franchise tag on Smith, a four-year starter in Miami, would cost the Dolphins around $10.7 million, while Hartline's tag would be worth nearly $10.4 million. The running back franchise tender is projected to be worth over $8 million in 2013. A less expensive franchise tag could be used on Clemons ($6.8 million) or Fasano ($5.9 million).

With two Pro Bowls on his résumé, the Dolphins could use the tag on Starks, which would cost around $8.3 million next season. Starks has been a full-time starter the last four seasons, posting 19.5 sacks and logging nearly 70 percent of the Dolphins' defensive snaps over that time. In 16 games and 72.19 percent of the defensive snaps last season, Starks had 4.5 sacks, which ranked third on the team behind Cameron Wake (15) and Jared Odrick (five).

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