The Miami Dolphins have reportedly made defensive end Olivier Vernon a free agent after pulling the transition tag designation on Wednesday, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Dolphins have pulled the transition tag on LB/DE on Olivier Vernon, per source. Now a free agent. Will command big dollars.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 9, 2016
This immediately makes Vernon one of the hottest free agents on the market, and you can bet he’ll be pursued by multiple teams that run a 4-3 defense.
The move isn’t surprising in the least. Miami signed veteran pass rusher Mario Williams on Tuesday to a two-year deal worth $8 million per year and has no intention of letting Cameron Wake go. With two high-priced defensive ends on the payroll, there simply isn’t room for a third.
Vernon has tallied 29 sacks in his first four years in the NFL. He has yet to fully realize his potential, and at the age of 25 could easily become a top pass rusher in the coming years if he falls into the right situation.
This means the young man must be selective about which offers he seriously listens to in the coming days. He’s likely to earn upwards of $10-plus million per season on a long-term deal, given the way teams are spending right now.
Miami couldn’t have absorbed the kind of cap hit he’s going to count as 2016, or in any year after. Applying the transition tag in the first place was just a placeholder to ensure opposing teams couldn’t lure him away without the Dolphins first having found his replacement. By making him a free agent, the Dolphins can now land a potential compensatory third-round pick as compensation next spring.