Olivier Vernon Miami Dolphins watch begins


The NFL’s deadline to apply the franchise tag is 4:00 this afternoon and the Miami Dolphins have a decision to make on Olivier Vernon.

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Vernon is expected to be one of the top free agent defensive ends in this years free agent market. The market for defensive ends this year is not deep which means Vernon would make more than most other years. Here is the latest on what is known of the situation as the deadline approaches.

Tag numbers

Franchise tag – $15.7 million

Transition tag – $12.5 million

The franchise tag if not deemed exclusive would mean that the Dolphins would receive two first round picks if Vernon signs elsewhere. The transition tag would give other teams the opportunity to sign him and then the Dolphins would have seven days to match the offer.


The Dolphins, as reported by NFL.com Monday night, were going to “sleep” on it overnight and look at the situation again today. Which of course they have to. The Dolphins have reportedly made Vernon a priority but barring a new contract extension can the Dolphins afford to spend $15 million on him in 2016?


There is a lot of speculation that Miami will use the franchise tag and then try to trade him once the league new year starts on March 9th. The last time a team tagged a player and traded him was when New England tagged Matt Cassel and then traded him to Kansas City. It’s rare that these trades happen. Teams would have to negotiate a long term deal and compensation with the Dolphins. The good news is that the league’s salary cap is $155 million in 2016 and there are a lot of teams loaded with cap space who need DE help.

Risk vs. reward

The risk in tagging Vernon is that he may not play the same as he did in the last 8 weeks of 2015 and in 2017 he would be looking at free agency once again. The benefit is Miami would have another season to evaluate him with a new coaching staff in place. While tagging and trading is a risk with potentially a high reward the Dolphins could go this route and be stuck with the $15 million cap hit.

What’s at stake

The reality of all this is that the Dolphins are thin at defensive end. Cam Wake is 34 and coming off an Achilles injury and is set to count $9.5 million in cap space. The Dolphins would like to reduce that number but thus far no progress has been made. Losing Vernon would make defensive end a top off-season priority that would likely be addressed in the draft but with so many other holes to fill, creating a hole isn’t an ideal situation for the Dolphins. Miami would almost be better served signing Vernon and releasing Wake to save his cap number which could then be applied to Vernon’s contract. They would still have a need at DE but they would eliminate one question mark, the health of Wake and keep a young promising and productive defensive end in Vernon.

Buyer beware

Vernon had an explosive 2nd half of the 2015 season finishing as the top defensive end in that period. Looking at the body of work since his NFL arrival and there is a lot of inconsistency. The Dolphins are looking at the full body of work and other teams will as well but his last eight game has catapulted him into a big payday and teams need to be careful spending money on a player who has been stellar for only 8 weeks in a contract year.


It’s hard to say what the Dolphins will do but I suspect that Vernon will be given the franchise tag and the Dolphins will explore trade possibilities. It makes sense for the team to try but they need to feel comfortable about using $15.7 million in cap space on him and must work diligently on a new contract for him.