Per Schefter, the transition tag was lifted because it will allow the Dolphins to land a compensatory draft pick should Vernon sign elsewhere. According to Breer, that pick could be as high as a third-round selection.
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The move was somewhat expected after Miami signed veteran defensive end Mario Williams on Tuesday night.
With Cameron Wake already in place on the other side, there wasn't much room or money left for the 25-year-old Vernon.
In a special article Vernon wrote for The MMQB Wednesday morning, he acknowledged the likelihood of leaving the Dolphins:
I honestly thought the Dolphins and I would be able to work out a deal. I thought we would find something to agree on. So I didn't know I was going to hit the free agent market until the day I got the transition tag. It all came down to the stipulations with the salary cap in Miami; they don't have much room to maneuver. Once I understood that, it started to sink in a little bit, that I probably won't be here. I'm 25 years old, and for the first time in my life I probably won't be playing football in Miami.
As ESPN's Field Yates pointed out, the 2012 third-round pick immediately becomes one of the top available players on the open market:
Vernon racked up 61 tackles and 7.5 sacks in 2015, and he has registered 29 sacks over the course of his four-year career, including 11.5 in 2013.
The University of Miami product is the epitome of a do-everything defensive end, which makes him a strong fit in essentially any system.
While the Dolphins didn't have the funds to keep him, one can only assume a number of teams with significant cap space will be in hot pursuit of Vernon's services.
It can be argued that Vernon hasn't even hit his prime yet, so while teams may be forced to pay for potential to some degree, the fact that he is already a high-quality player ensures the demand will be high.
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