Randy Starks will almost assuredly remain in Miami — at least for one more year.
The Dolphins locked down their two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle by naming him their franchise tag designee Monday. That means, assuming he signs the one-year tender, he’s guaranteed to earn $8.5 million this fall.
The Dolphins designated Starks as a “nonexclusive” franchise player, meaning he can still negotiate a long-term deal with both the Dolphins and the other 31 teams in the league. But the Dolphins could match any offer he receives, and if Starks signs elsewhere, his new team would have to give Miami two first-round picks as compensation.
Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland opted to tag Starks instead of the Dolphins’ 11 other unrestricted free agents. The rest — including key contributors Jake Long, Brian Hartline and Reggie Bush — will hit the open market if the Dolphins can’t sign them to new contracts by March 12.
Even by tagging Starks, the Dolphins still have ample resources to be major players in free agency. The club still has roughly $40 million in available salary-cap space and is expected to make a strong push for a top-flight wide receiver.
Starks, 29, apparently had an inkling of what was coming — and wasn’t exactly thrilled by the prospect. He took to Twitter on Sunday morning, making his case for a long-term deal at what he believed was a fair price.
He wrote: “I want to be a dolphin!!! Not just for one more year....”
Starks also said: “Discount yea clearance rack heck no!”
The 6-3, 305-pound defensive lineman tallied 4 1/2 sacks and 27 tackles in 2012. He played every game, despite missing entire weeks of practice late in the season as he dealt with the death of his mother.