After an impressive debut NFL season with the Tennessee Titans in 2019, Ryan Tannehill signed a new contract in Tennessee. Following the recent restructure, let’s look at the contract structure, his impact on the Titans’ salary cap, and the team’s options regarding Tannehill’s contract in future years.
Ryan Tannehill’s contract details and bonuses
Just before hitting free agency in 2020, Ian Rapoport reported that Ryan Tannehill signed a four-year contract with the Titans. The contract is worth $118 million at an average of $29.5 million per year. At the time of signing, the new deal made Tannehill one of the top 10 highest-paid quarterbacks in terms of average annual value.
Per Jeff Darlington, $62 million of the contract was fully guaranteed at signing. That includes a $20 million signing bonus and guaranteed salaries in 2020 and 2021. However, on the fifth day of the 2021 league year, Tannehill’s $29 million base salary in 2022 also became guaranteed. Tannehill’s 2022 salary is guaranteed for injuries as well.
The Titans and Tannehill restructured the contract to facilitate the arrival of Julio Jones’ contract. Tannehill’s 2021 salary was set to be $24.5 million. The Titans converted just over $23.4 million to a signing bonus. Two void years were added to the contract in 2024 and 2025 to spread the cap impact of the signing bonus. The $23.4 million prorates across five years at $4.7 million per year.
Tannehill’s contract length is for another three years
Tannehill was set to become a free agent in 2020 before the Titans offered him a contract. Therefore, Tannehill’s deal is just for the four years in the deal. The 2020 season was the first of those years, leaving three more seasons remaining on the contract.
The restructure of Tannehill’s contract does not change the date that he becomes a free agent. While the contract technically runs until 2025, it will still void following the 2023 season. Therefore, despite the additional years in the deal, Tannehill remains under contract for three more seasons heading into 2021.
What impact does Tannehill’s deal have on the Titans’ salary cap?
Tannehill’s contract had a reasonably low cap number of $22.5 million last season. His cap number in 2021 was set to jump up to $29.5 million. That was made up of his prorated signing bonus and $24.5 million in fully guaranteed salary. Tannehill’s $20 million signing bonus has prorated across the four years of the deal at $5 million per year in terms of salary cap number.
However, with the restructure, Tannehill’s contract now counts just $10.8 million against the Titans’ salary cap. That is made up of a $1.1 million base salary, $5 million in prorated signing bonus, and $4.7 million prorated restructure bonus.
What options do the Titans have with Tannehill’s contract in future years?
Let’s take a look over the next three seasons and see what options the Titans have with Tannehill’s contract.
The Titans could restructure Tannehill’s contract again in future seasons
The Titans already decided to restructure Tannehill’s contract to get salary cap relief in 2021. However, that does not mean that Tannehill’s deal could not be restructured again in the coming seasons. With a $29 million base salary in 2022 and $27 million in 2023, both provide the Titans the option to restructure the deal and move money around.
However, there is already $9.7 million per year in prorated money in 2022 and 2023. Additionally, when the contract voids ahead of the 2024 season, the Titans will have $9.4 million in dead money on their salary cap in 2024. Any further restructures will only further increase the amount of dead money on the deal in those final two years.
The Titans would have to swallow considerable dead money to release Tannehill in the next two offseasons
If Tannehill struggles in 2021, could the Titans look to release him in 2022? The realistic answer is no following this restructure. Tannehill’s $29 million in salary for 2022 becomes guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2021 league year. Therefore, releasing Tannehill between the 2021 and 2022 seasons would cost the Titans $57.7 million in dead money.
Releasing Tannehill after June 1 would spread some of the dead money in the contract over two seasons. However, the Titans would only save $19 million in 2022. Even as a post-June 1 release, Tannehill would leave $38.7 million in dead money in 2022.
If the Titans were to trade Tannehill ahead of the 2022 season, he would leave $28.7 million in dead money. However, they would save $29 million in guaranteed salary due in the 2022 season.
The Titans have an out in Tannehill’s contract ahead of the 2023 season
The first real opportunity the Titans would have to release Tannehill comes ahead of the 2023 season. Tannehill has no guaranteed money in that year. Unfortunately, the restructure has made it more expensive to do so. Now, if the Titans want to move on ahead of the 2023 season, they will be left with $19.1 million in dead money. They would save around $17.5 million in salary cap space by releasing Tannehill.
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