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Miami Dolphins could be big free-agent market player

Looking for a prediction on a non-playoff team this season that can make the jump to January football in 2014?

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There are worse guesses than the 7-8 Miami Dolphins, who have existing pieces in place and could be in great position to take chances in free agency.

According to The Miami Herald, the Dolphins figure to have $46.84 million in salary cap space if the cap comes in at $121 million, as has been reported here and elsewhere.

That's a lot of flexibility, which will allow the Dolphins to choose which of their 15 pending free agents they'd like to retain, then go after some big fish when the free-agency period begins in March.

Among their free-agents to be, the Dolphins are likely to bring back running back Reggie Bush, cornerback Sean Smith and wide receiver Brian Hartline. The Palm Beach Post speculated Saturday that Smith and Hartline are candidates for the franchise tag.

Ultimately, the team's decision on left tackle Jake Long will dictate just how aggressive the Dolphins can be come March. Long's play slipped in Miami's zone-blocking scheme and injuries continue to take their toll on the 27-year-old former first-round pick.

If the Dolphins let Long walk -- a genuine possibility -- they could have the deepest pockets of any team in free agency.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.

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