DAVIE, Fla. – Playing football in South Florida is the only thing defensive end Olivier Vernon knows. He played locally at American High School and also at the University of Miami. The Miami Dolphins drafted Vernon in the third round in 2012, and he has been a three-year starter.
But there is an air of uncertainly for Vernon heading into Sunday’s regular-season finale against the New England Patriots. Vernon will become an unrestricted free agent in March, which means this could be his final game in a Dolphins uniform.
Miami has a lot of issues facing the team this offseason, including a tight salary cap and major changes looming on the coaching staff.
Vernon, who is 25 and entering the prime of his career, certainly won’t come cheap. He is tied for the team lead with seven sacks and has 28.5 sacks in four seasons. There should be plenty of teams interested in that kind of production on the open market.
“I’d like to be here,” Vernon told ESPN.com of Miami. “But at the end of the day, business is business. So if this is my last game and I enter free agency, then I’m going to see how that goes.”
Vernon helped his case by staying healthy and playing his best football late in the season. He has five sacks and six tackles for loss in the past six weeks.
The defensive end is one of the few players performing consistently well down the stretch for Miami (5-10), which has lost five of its past six games.
“I think my film work is going to speak for itself,” Vernon said of potentially heading into free agency. “So it’s on the coaches in what they see on film.”