There's been much talk of the Dolphins potentially using their franchise tag designation on one of their own unrestricted free agents. Well, this morning Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said that potential is quite real.
"There's certainly a likelihood we could use it," Ireland said in talking about the issue at the NFL Combine.
The Dolphins have several candidates to use it on -- Randy Starks and Jake Long among them. Several media outlets have reported Sean Smith would be tagged. I've reported he will not be tagged. Ireland addressed tagging several players as possibilities in only general terms and gave no indication which specific player he would tag if necessary.
(Understand, it makes sense for Ireland to threaten every player with the tag to induce them to sign a multi-year deal, which is more cap friendly for the Dolphins. He has no intetion on using the tag on certain players but if they are convinced it is a possibility, they might be willing to do a deal that gets them more guaranteed money but also gives the team a lower cap number. Ireland would be dumb to tip his hand and eliminate anyone from the possibility.)
Ireland was asked about the apparent slow pace of negotiations between the Dolphins and their own players. Well, Ireland says he's not been in a hurry to get deals done because he has a deadline in his head for doing that and that time is not yet.
"The date that I have in my head is March 9," Ireland said.
March 9 is the first day free agents can begin talking to teams other than the ones they played for last season. Until then, there is supposed to be no "tampering" or communication between teams and the potential free agents from other teams.
Anyway, Ireland says the Dolphins have formulated a plan for re-sign certain players and chasing others starting March 12 when free agency kicks off.
"We know the guys we want back and we know the guys we will potentially go after," he said. "It's a strong plan to do a little bit of both."
The Dolphins want Jake Long back. As I've reported previously, they have made at least two contract offers. Ireland confirmed the club wants Long back after his presser.
The Dolphins are clearly moving toward Lamar Miller as their lead back next year. But Ireland suggested Reggie Bush could return (sources say only for the "right" price) and play more of a role in the passing game.
The idea is to help the Dolphins get better because they've posted records of 7-9, 7-9, 6-10, and 7-9 the past three seasons while the New England Patriots have been to two Super Bowls and the playoffs each year. The idea is to close that gap.
"There's a gap," Ireland said. "We've got to close that gap and we plan to do our best job getting that done."
The draft will follow free agency and that is perhaps more important to Miami -- a team with five picks in the first three rounds and nine picks overall.
Ireland quipped that the team brought every person in the organization to Indianapolis to get "eyes on every single player at the Combine." That's upwards of 50-plus Dolphins people in Indianapolis.
"I think there are some difference-makers," Ireland said of the draft talent before adding he likes several offensive and defensive linemen and thinks there are good safeties available as well.