Oliver Vernon , PFF’s number 1 ranked defensive end in 2015, has been tagged by the Miami Dolphins for the 2016 season. However, the Dolphins did not use the most commonly known tag – the franchise tag. Instead they used the transition tag, the lesser known, lesser cousin of the franchise tag. Using the transition tag means the Dolphins will pay a $12.73 million 1 year deal to keep him as opposed to the $15.7 million it would have cost if they had used the franchise tag.
The rules of the transition tag, though, are different than those of the franchise tag. With transition, Vernon can still test the market and any team can offer him a multi-year deal. If they do, the Dolphins have 7 days to match or beat that offer. If they do not, then the offering team will get Vernon and the Dolphins will receive no compensation at all.
This is the second year in a row that Miami has chosen to use the transition tag, and last year using it did not work out very well. In 2015, the Dolphins placed the transition tag on TE Charles Clay in hopes of keeping him for a smaller amount than franchising him would have cost, and they ended up losing him to the division rival Buffalo Bills who offered him a long lucrative contract that the Phins were not prepared to match. The big question is whether or not the transition tag will bode well in regards to Vernon.
Oliver Vernon ranked out as the #1 defensive end in 2015. He had 7.5 sacks and 61 tackles in 2015 and, according to PFF, 81 total quarterback pressures. Vernon has had 29 total sacks in his short 4 year career and is only 25 years old. That coupled with the fact that Von Miller has been franchise tagged, makes Oliver Vernon arguably the best free agent defensive end on the market this year. Teams like the New York Giants, who are in desperate need of a top pass rusher, are likely to push hard to land Vernon, and with $60 million in cap space available, the Giants seem likely to make an offer that the Dolphins will be hard pressed to match.
Only time will tell if the Dolphins will win at this game of transition tag roulette or if they will lose another good player like they did last year.