How Franchise Tag Rules Worked Against Miami Dolphins in 2024

The franchise tag number for the Miami Dolphins' top two free agents -- Christian Wilkins and Robert Hunt -- just wasn't good enough value to use.

The franchise tag deadline is Tuesday, and all signs point to the Miami Dolphins being among the majority of teams that pass on using it.

It’s not that they don’t have good players they want to keep. it’s just that the tag is too expensive for them to use in a year of apparent austerity.

Why Miami Dolphins Will Likely Lose Christian Wilkins, Robert Hunt

Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins has been the most-discussed candidate for the tag. But given the Dolphins’ $28 million in salary cap debt and the eye-popping number for defensive tackles this year — $22.1 million — it’s no surprise that Miami decided against it, per multiple reports.

But beyond the explosion in defensive tackle tag figures — the franchise number for that position is up 128% in the last 10 years while the salary cap as a whole is up just 92% over that same time — there’s another big factor to consider:

The tag rules make it cost-prohibitive to use on any offensive lineman who doesn’t play tackle.

Robert Hunt, like Wilkins, is expected to reach the market next week, where some estimate that he could earn a contract paying in excess of $15 million a year.

That’s a big chunk of change.

But it’s a steal compared to what Hunt’s franchise tag number would have been: $21 million.

That’s because the league, for franchise-tagging purposes, doesn’t differentiate linemen by the position they play — even though tackles are paid more than guards and centers, and usually substantially more.

There are six tackles with AAVs of $20 million or more currently under contract, compared to just two guards and zero centers.

KEEP READING: Miami Dolphins Free Agency Predictions 2024: Where Will Wilkins, Hunt, Van Ginkel Land?

That’s why just two guards (Joe Thuney and Brandon Scherff twice) and zero centers have received the franchise tag since 2013.

And it’s why the Dolphins expect Hunt to test the market next week — with a high likelihood that he signs elsewhere.

“We had some discussions with Robert’s representation in the middle of the season and completely respected his willingness to go to free agency,” Grier said last week at the NFL Scouting Combine. “And again, I say that term, but he had earned the right, and I love Robert. He’s a good kid. He works hard, and he wants to be good.”

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