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Dolphins likely to franchise tag defensive lineman Randy Starks

The Miami Dolphins are expected to use their franchise tag on Monday, and league sources say the club's top candidate is defensive lineman Randy Starks.

More on NFL free agency

Miami has five key impending free agents on its roster, and four seem primed to hit the market as the deadline to tag a franchise player approaches at 4 p.m. ET on Monday. Starks, cornerback Sean Smith, left tackle Jake Long, running back Reggie Bush and receiver Brian Hartline all have expiring contracts, and the team is trying to negotiate new contracts with some of them.

The Dolphins will use the tag to protect an asset. Barring striking a long-term deal with Starks before the deadline, he is in line to get tagged. Miami would like to retain Long and Smith as well but are not close to new deals with them. There is trepidation to apply such high franchise tags on them, as the team has a lower value on them and is more interested in a manageable long-term deal rather than a one-year franchise tender.

Long's injury history and declining play in recent years and some of the limitations in Smith's game give the Dolphins pause, but both could very well still end up cashing in significantly in free agency given how young and talented they are. But tagging either is highly unlikely at this point, and Starks will get the tag if need be, sources said.

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