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Olivier Vernon's transition tag removed by Dolphins, sending the DE to free agency

The Dolphins placed the transition tag on Olivier Vernon, but removed it on Wednesday amid reports of teams interested in signing him to a blockbuster offer sheet.

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Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins have rescinded the transition tag formerly placed on defensive end Olivier Vernon, making him a free agent, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. The team signed former No. 1 overall pick DE Mario Williams to a two-year deal which gave credence to reports that Vernon's transition tag could be rescinded.

Vernon, 25, was a third-round pick of the Dolphins in 2012, but after one year as a rotational pass rusher he stepped into the starting lineup and racked up 25.5 sacks in the last three years. While his 7.5 sacks last season paled in comparison to the 11.5 he racked up in 2013, he played maybe his best-ever stretch of football in the back half of the season in 2015, recording 24 quarterback hits in the last eight games of the year, according to Pro Football Focus.

By giving Vernon the transition tag, the Dolphins committed to a one-year, $12.734 million deal for the defensive end if a long-term contract couldn't be reached. It was a way to save nearly $3 million as the franchise tag would've given Vernon $15.701 million, but the franchise tag would've warded off teams from signing Vernon because it forces a team to give up two first-round picks to pursue another team's franchise player.

With the transition tag, a host of teams were still expected to offer Vernon big money to pull him away from Miami, so the Dolphins instead pulled the tag on Wednesday morning. By removing the transition tag from the pass rusher, the Dolphins are now eligible to receive a compensatory draft pick next offseason for Vernon, which the team wouldn't have been if it chose not to match a deal under the transition tag.

The Cleveland Browns made a mistake two years ago in giving center Alex Mack the transition tag, as the Jacksonville Jaguars swept in to give him a front-loaded, player-friendly deal which he opted-out of two years later, leaving the Browns without its Pro Bowl center.

Miami likely would've been in a similar spot where matching a blockbuster offer given to Vernon would have keep the defensive end in Miami, but likely would have overpaid the pass rusher and potentially hurt the Dolphins in the long run.