The Miami Dolphins may be positioning themselves to have a backup plan in case defensive end Olivier Vernon leaves the team in free agency when free agency starts this week as the team announces the completion of a free agent visit by former Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams. Vernon, upon whom the Dolphins placed the transition tag this offseason, is expected to generate interest when free agency begins, and could agree to a contract with a new team, though Miami has the right to match any offer. If they do not match, the team could look to Williams as a replacement.
Williams, the first overall pick of the Houston Texans in 2006, spent the last four seasons with the Bills, where he averaged 10.75 sacks a season. His 2015 performance, however, was below par, tallying just 5.0 sacks in 15 games played. The Bills, under head coach Rex Ryan for the first time, transitioned to a 3-4 defensive system, which asked Williams to move from a defensive end position to an outside linebacker.
Williams began his first free agent interview by arriving in Miami on Saturday, spending time during the night with the team, then returning for most of Sunday. The Dolphins made several roster moves on Saturday, which opened around $20 million in salary cap space to spend this offseason, which added some speculation that Miami may try to sign Williams before he could visit with any other team. Williams is free to join a new team prior to the start of the league year, and the rest of free agency, because he was released by the Bills and is not on an expiring contract. Williams told ESPN's Josina Anderson via text message that he wants to visit with "four to five [teams] quickly," before settling on his new home.
Free agency officially begins at 4pm Eastern time on Wednesday. The "legal tampering" period, in which teams can work on contract parameters with agents but cannot sign contracts, begins Monday at 12pm.