The Miami Dolphins placed the transition tag on defensive end Olivier Vernon.
With the one-year, $12.734 million tender, the Dolphins will have the right to match any offer Vernon receives in free agency. They used the tag on tight end Charles Clay last season, but ultimately chose not to match the free agent offer he received from the Buffalo Bills.
Vernon, 25, earned $1.542 million last season and has 29 sacks through his first four NFL seasons. He had a team-best 7.5 sacks among his 61 tackles last season despite seeing increased attention from opposing teams following Cam Wake's season-ending Achilles injury.
Vernon could command an offer in in the range of five years and $50 million with $25 million guaranteed.
"We're on the precipice of free agency and we'll see what happens," executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum said at the NFL combine last week. "He's earned the right to be a free agent and he has options, we have options. We're going to keep assessing those."
The Dolphins could be in big trouble at defensive end because Vernon could depart, Wake, who is recovering from an Achilles injury, could be slowed, and reserve defensive end Derrick Shelby is also eligible for free agency.
"I thought Derrick played really well this year," Tannenbaum said. "He's one of those players you really want to celebrate. Under the radar, self-made player. One of the toughest players in our locker room. Football is really important to him.
"He played hurt, played the whole year. We'll see how it goes. I'm really proud of what Derrick has done. He's another free agent that deserves a chance to go to the market. We'll see how it plays out."
Miami could be in a position where it must choose between Wake, who is due $8.4 million, and Vernon. It's doubtful both would return with top-tier salaries.
"We'll see," Tannenbaum said. "Those are all part of the variables. They are somewhat dependent on each other, but they're also their own narrative. They're both good players, good people in our locker room and both really good players. We'll see how it goes. We have a few more days to finalize some decisions."