In exactly two weeks we will know the immediate futures of two Pro Bowl players in the AFC East. July 15 is the deadline for teams that used the one-year franchise tag to work out long-term extensions.
The Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins used the tag in March to retain safety Jairus Byrd and defensive tackle Randy Starks, respectively. However, neither player has been able to work out a long-term contract over the past four months.
Byrd's situation with Buffalo is the more unstable of the two. He finished his rookie contract last season and is unhappy that the Bills haven't provided long-term security. Byrd skipped all organized team activities and mandatory minicamp. The Bills could not fine Byrd because he hasn’t signed his franchise tender.
Byrd, 26, is a playmaker entering his prime and Buffalo has plenty of cap room. It would make sense for both sides to reach a resolution. However, it’s been eerily quiet from both sides lately and this could go down to the wire.
Miami's situation, on the other hand, is easier to predict. The Dolphins already spent more than $200 million this offseason in free-agent contracts, which includes $117 million in guaranteed money. It is unlikely the Dolphins want to further tie up their salary cap with a big extension for Starks. He is one of Miami’s best defensive players, but Starks also will be 30 in December.
The Dolphins appear comfortable paying the one-year, $8.45 franchise tag and letting this season play out. Starks held out of voluntary practices this spring but showed up for mandatory minicamp. Starks already signed his tag and doesn't appear willing to hold out of training camp if he doesn't get an extension, as expected.
But anything can happen in the NFL. So keep an eye on the situations of Byrd and Starks over the next two weeks.