The Dolphins have pulled the transition tag from defensive end Olivier Vernon, a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The team will no longer have the right of first refusal on Vernon, allowing him to become a true unrestricted free agent.
The move comes in the wake of the Dolphins’ signing of defensive end Mario Williams. Assuming the team intends to keep Cameron Wake as well, as has been reported, it didn’t make sense to carry all three defensive ends on significant contracts, making Vernon – and his $12.734MM transition tag – the odd man out.
In addition to clearing more than $12MM from their cap, the Dolphins now assure that they’ll receive a compensatory pick in 2017 for Vernon. Depending on the sort of contract he signs, Miami could be in line for a pick as high as a third-rounder as compensation for losing the young defensive end.
Vernon, 25, is coming off a season in which he recorded 7.5 sacks to go along with 61 tackles. While his counting stats weren’t eye-popping, Vernon ranked as the league’s third-best edge defender according to Pro Football Focus’ grades, behind only Khalil Mack and Von Miller.
In his first four seasons in the NFL, Vernon has notched a total of 29 sacks, including a career-best 11.5 in 2013. Since he won’t turn 26 until October, the former third-round pick should have plenty of prime seasons left, which will make him a very appealing target for some of the many NFL teams in need of pass-rush help. Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com suggests (via Twitter) that the Giants, Falcons, Jaguars, and Cardinals are among the teams “very interested” in pass rushers, making them potential suitors for Vernon.
Teams aren’t allowed to negotiate with the representatives for transition players during the legal tampering period, so now that Vernon’s tag has been lifted, his reps can begin seeking out a new deal for their client.
Vernon ranked as the top free agent in our top 50 list.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.