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Randy Starks gets Miami Dolphins' franchise tag

Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland strongly indicated at the NFL Scouting Combine that the team was going to use the franchise tag. On Monday, the Dolphins officially made their choice.

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NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported that defensive tackle Randy Starks has been designated with the Dolphins' franchise tag.

Cornerback Sean Smith was a candidate for the tag, but the team didn't seem to value Smith like they value Starks. Offensive tackle Jake Long's franchise number, realistically, would have been too high to use.

This is the perfect way to keep Starks in the fold. His career has been somewhat up-and-down, but he's played his best football of late. If Starks backs up that performance, he could get a long-term contract like his linemate Paul Soliai did after getting tagged. Starks would have made a lot of coin on the free-agent market as the best potential interior lineman. He can play in any scheme and is a solid performer against the run and the pass.

Starks will make $8.45 million as the team's franchise player. He indicated recently on Twitter he was hoping for more than the tag, but it didn't sound like he was particularly close to agreeing on a long-term contract. Since the Dolphins have plenty of salary-cap space, they can afford to keep Starks under his tag number.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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