Free Agency and Franchise Fodder

NT Paul Soliai

Monday was a significance date on the NFL calendar as it marked the start of a two-week window where teams could place franchise tags on their players. For the Dolphins, though, it's likely to be a quiet two weeks because it would be a shock if they decided to franchise any of the upcoming free agents.

The tag pretty much ensures that the player will remain with his current team, but it comes with a hefty price. A franchise tag comes with a one-year guarantee that is the greater of the average of the top five players at the position or 120 percent of the player's salary the previous year.

For example, if the Dolphins were to franchise Paul Soliai for a second consecutive year, they'be looking at a one-year guarantee of about $15 million.

As good a nose tackle as Soliai has become, that's an awful lot of money for that position. It's highly likely to be too much for the Dolphins' liking, so Soliai will hit the free agent market.

In Soliai's case, there's also the issue of what defense the Dolphins will use under new coordinator Kevin Coyle. If the Dolphins switch to a 4-3, then Soliai isn't a great fit anymore because he's a pure 3-4 nose tackle.

Soliai is one of 11 Dolphins players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on March 13 — 10 if you don't count Jason Taylor, who already has announced his retirement.

The other nine don't include a single player who would merit a franchise tag. In fact, the bigger question is which ones of their free agents the Dolphins want to re-sign.

The list of free agents consists of LB Ikaika Alama-Francis, CB Will Allen, G/T Vernon Carey, T Marc Colombo, QB Chad Henne, DE Kendall Langford, QB J.P. Losman, LB Marvin Mitchell, RB Steve Slaton.

Here's how we would evaluate the chances of each to return:

Vernon Carey - 50/50: Carey took a pay cut to stay with the Dolphins last year and moved from tackle to guard, which tells you his value is on a downward slide. But he's from Miami, has never played anywhere else (high school, college or pro), so he could be re-signed at a good price.

Marc Colombo - Gone: He was brought in last year as a stopgap solution and struggled in pass protection.

Ikaika Alama-Francis - Likely gone: IAF barely played on defense in the 3-4, so there's no reason to think the Dolphins will make much of an effort to bring him back.

Chad Henne - Gone: It's best for both parties that he move on. Next year's quarterback group will including Matt Moore, a young project and whoever the Dolphins can land in free agency.

Kendall Langford - 60/40 he's back: This is one of the toughest calls. Langford has made it clear he wants to stay and he's a solid run-stopping defensive end in a 3-4. He easily could slide inside to tackle in a 4-3. This will come down to money.

JP Losman - Gone: He was just brought in because of an emergency.

Marvin Mitchell - 50/50: Mitchell has some value as a backup linebacker and special teams player. It will depend on what kind of offers he gets on the market.

Steve Slaton - Gone: The former Houston rookie sensation really didn't do much last year to merit another look.

Will Allen - 50/50: Allen took a pay cut before last year, then was released, then was re-signed. He was OK as a backup but nothing more. Given his age and recent injuries, he's not likely to get major offers elsewhere, so it might come down to whether the Dolphins can find upgrades elsewhere.

Paul Soliai: 85/15 gone: His price tag is the issue here. It's hard to envision Soliai not getting a big offer from another team that employs a 3-4 defense.

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