The Tennessee Titans made a splash at the end of a week full of splashes when they traded for Ryan Tannehill from the Dolphins. The Titans acquired Tannehill and the Dolphins sixth round pick in 2019. In return they sent their 2019 seventh round pick and 2020 fourth round pick to the Miami Dolphins.
The addition of Tannehill will give the Titans some much needed depth at quarterback. Their starting quarterback Marcus Mariota is injury prone and has never played a full 16 games in his career. Prior to adding Tannehill the Titans were once again entering a season with Blaine Gabbert at quarterback.
Tannehill offers the Titans an improved backup to Gabbert and most importantly he has a playing style similar to that of Mariota. Tannehill is generally less aggressive with his running than Mariota, but he is a better runner than Gabbert, who the Titans are releasing following the trade. In that element Tannehill is a massive upgrade for the Titans, but it has come at a cost.
Tannehill will cost the Titans slightly less than Joe Flacco cost the Denver Broncos. As you can see from the table below, with the Dolphins Tannehill had two years and close to $37 million in base salary remaining on his contract. However, none of that contract was guaranteed and the Titans and Tannehill have reached an agreement on a new one year deal with $7 million guaranteed. That deal has the potential to reach as much as $12.5 million with incentives. In addition, as part of the trade the Dolphins are eating $5 million of that new deal, leaving the Titans on the hook for a minimum of $2 million for their new backup.
As for the Dolphins they are left with a total of $18.4 million in dead cap this season. The $5 million from the new deal and another $13.4 million in signing bonus which has been accelerated onto this year’s cap. However, the Dolphins were always going to have to take that $13.4 million cap hit if they cut Tannehill. Therefore, they are in essence paying $5 million for a fourth round pick.
This is an interesting deal for the Titans. On one hand it makes a lot of sense for this season. They now have a legitimate backup for Mariota, who can play in a similar style. When Mariota was injured last year, the Titans offence had to adapt to Gabbert being in the game. Now they will be able to run a virtually identical offence with Tannehill.
The problem is the future. The Titans now have their top two quarterbacks under contract for this year only. Therefore, for 2020 and beyond they have no real solution at the quarterback. From that point of view this deal makes no sense. The Titans roster is definitely talented but not many would consider the a Super Bowl contender in 2019. This feels like a move of a contender who wants to secure their backup quarterback role.
The Final Word
Overall this deal has left many scratching their head from a Titans point of view. The Titans have essentially not given up just less than a fourth round pick for a backup quarterback. The strange thing about it that by the time that fourth round pick is made next year Tannehill may not even be on the Titans roster. However, this is a somewhat aggressive move from a team who has had an aggressive free agency. The attitude of making moves in order to try and win it all should be applauded. It is history will not judge this trade favourably for the Titans, but for 2019, for a team with an injury prone quarterback, it is a move that is actually understandable and its boldness is in some ways admirable.
Image credit: Sports Illustrated