The Jacksonville Jaguars have once again raided the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs are welcoming back one of their own. The Jaguars are reported to be finalizing a deal with former Broncos defensive tackle Malik Jackson. The deal, which is expected to be a six-year contract paying Jackson an average of at least $15 million a year, will be signed when free agency opens on Wednesday at 4pm Eastern. Jackson had been consider one of the top free agents on the market this year.
Another big name defensive lineman, the Chiefs' Tamba Hali, agreed to return to his team. Hali and the Chiefs agreed to a three-year deal, though the salary has not been released.
Add to those two deals the reports that the Miami Dolphins' are apparently close to a deal with Mario Williams and that Jason Pierre-Paul will return to the New York Giants on a one-year deal, and the defensive line market is quickly drying up - or making top players even more money with every signing.
Which begs the question: Where does that leave Olivier Vernon?
Miami placed the transition tag on Vernon this year, meaning he is counting for $12 million against the salary cap right now. Once a deal with Williams, if it does happen, is finalized, Miami could remove the transition tag, making Vernon an unrestricted free agent. The league is currently in the two-day legal-tampering period, when agents and teams can work on contracts, but nothing can officially be signed until free agency begins, but Vernon is not included in that group. Since the transition tag is in place, Vernon cannot talk to teams until Wednesday's free agency begins.
Vernon is expected to be in demand this offseason, with teams like the Giants, the Jaguars, the Oakland Raiders, the Cleveland Browns, and the Tennessee Titans all reportedly in the market. The Giants and Jaguars could have just found the defensive lineman they need - though both teams do have the cap space to stay in the Vernon sweepstakes.
Jackson's deal at $15 million a year for six-years could push Vernon, who plays the premium position of defensive end rather than defensive tackle, even higher - though it was exactly the deal he was said to be trying to get from Miami. Pierre-Paul's deal with the Giants is worth $10.5 million, so there is little chance Vernon will see a salary lower than his $12 million transition tag. How much higher than that transition tag may be the real question at this point.