Posted: 5:12 pm Thursday, February 24th, 2011
Miami Dolphins place franchise tag on NT Paul Soliai, reportedly put Jeremy Shockey through a physical
By Post Staff
INDIANAPOLIS — Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said around 11 a.m. today that re-signing free agent nose tackle Paul Soliai is “obviously a big need.”
So big that the Dolphins are giving him a massive pay raise for 2011.
Soliai, who was set to enter free agency this offseason after a breakout 2010 season, was given the Dolphins’ franchise tag today for 2011, his agent confirmed. Getting the franchise tag means Soliai’s 2011 salary will equal the average of the top five salaries at his position, meaning Soliai will make about $12.5 million next year, up from $550,000.
The Dolphins gave Soliai a non-exclusive franchise tag, meaning he can still negotiate with other teams. If he signs elsewhere, the Dolphins would receive two first-round picks as compensation. But his agent, David Canter, said Soliai wants to stay in Miami and will sign his contract as soon as he can.
“Paul couldn’t be more excited about it,” Canter said. “It’s a tremendous amount of respect from the organization, and hopefully it leads to a long term contract extension.”
The big contract is a great turn of events for Soliai, a 2007 fourth-round pick who struggled with weight issues in each of his first three NFL seasons, earning fines and benchings from his coaches. But Soliai got his weight under control last offseason and had a great year as the Dolphins’ starting nose tackle, earning the job only after Jason Ferguson suddenly retired before training camp and Jared Odrick fractured his leg in Week 1, shifting Randy Starks back to defensive end.
Soliai’s 2010 stats aren’t eye-popping — he finished the year with 39 tackles, two sacks and two passes batted down — but in the Dolphins’ 3-4 defense, Soliai’s main responsibility is to occupy two blockers to free up other players to make tackles. The website ProFootballFocus.com ranked Soliai as the league’s 10th-best nose tackle last season, fifth-best against the run.
Also Thursday, former Saints and Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey passed a physical conducted by the Dolphins, according to ESPN.
This after Ireland said this morning that he and Shockey’s camp have had “no talks at this point,” but “obviously, if you know me, I’m going to look at every acorn that falls off the tree.”
Shockey, the Giants’ 2002 first-round pick out of the University of Miami, was cut by New Orleans earlier this week after coming off his least productive season as a pro: 41 catches for 408 yards and three touchdowns.
Shockey, 30, hasn’t had more than 50 catches, 569 yards or three touchdowns since being traded to the Saints before the 2008 season, but could still fill a need in the Dolphins’ offense for a second tight end. Anthony Fasano had 39 catches for 528 yards and four touchdowns in 2010, but the other three tight ends on the roster — rookies Jeron Mastrud, Mickey Shuler and Dedrick Epps — combined for just two catches all season, both by Shuler.
Shockey’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said on 560-AM Thursday morning that Shockey is “very interested” in playing for the Dolphins.