After an impressive debut NFL season with the Tennessee Titans in 2019, Ryan Tannehill signed a new contract in Tennessee. Let’s take a look at the structure of the contract, 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 is 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 becomes guaranteed. Tannehill’s 2022 salary guarantees for injuries as well.
Tannehill’s contract length is for another three years
Ryan 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 deal.
Tannehill earned his new contract after an impressive 2019 season. He replaced Marcus Mariota as the starter during that season and led the Titans to the AFC Championship Game. His performance in 2019 left the Titans little recourse but to offer Tannehill a long-term deal.
What impact does Tannehill’s deal have on the Titans’ salary cap?
Ryan Tannehill’s contract had a reasonably low cap number of $22.5 million last season. His cap number in 2021 is set to jump up to $29.5 million. That is 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.
As of February 20th, the Titans project to be $2.2 million over the 2021 salary cap. That is based on a projected base salary cap of $180 million. At $29.5 million, Tannehill has by far the biggest cap number for the Titans. As it stands, Tannehill will count as 16.1 percent of the Titans’ salary cap space in 2021.
What options do the Titans have with Ryan Tannehill’s contract in future years?
Let’s take a look over the next three seasons and see what options the Titans have with Ryan Tannehill’s contract.
The Titans’ best option in 2021 would be to restructure Ryan Tannehill’s contract
If the Titans wanted to reduce the $29.5 million cap number for Tannehill this season, a restructure seems the most likely option. The Titans could convert around $23.5 million of his base salary into a restructure bonus. That would reduce his salary cap hit this season by around $15.6 million. However, doing so would result in his 2022 and 2023 cap numbers increasing by $7.8 million each year.
The Titans could further spread the cap hit of a restructure with the introduction of a void year or two. Adding void years would not change Tannehill being with the Titans until 2023 but would allow the prorated cap hit to be spread over more seasons. One void year would reduce that $7.8 million prorated restructure bonus to around $5.8 million. Adding two void years would reduce it to $4.7 million.
If the Titans were to trade Tannehill ahead of the 2021 season, he would leave $15 million in dead money. The Titans would save $14.5 million in 2021. However, given Tannehill’s performances the last two seasons, a trade seems very unlikely.
The Titans would have to swallow considerable dead money to release Tannehill in the next two offseasons
The Titans releasing Ryan Tannehill and removing his contract in 2021 is extremely unlikely. If they did, they would actually increase their cap number by $10 million in dead money.
However, if Tannehill struggles in 2021, could they look to release him in 2022? The realistic answer is not really. 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 $39 million in dead money.
Releasing Ryan Tannehill after June 1st would spread some of the dead money in the contract over two seasons. However, the Titans would only save $10 million in dead money in 2021 and $5 million in 2022. Even as a post-June 1 release, Tannehill would leave $29.5 million in dead money in 2021 and $34 million in 2022.
If the Titans were to trade Tannehill ahead of the 2022 season, he would leave $10 million in dead money. Moreover, they would save $24 million in guaranteed salary due in the 2022 season.
The Titans have an out in Ryan Tannehill’s contract ahead of the 2023 season
The first real opportunity the Titans would have to release Ryan Tannehill comes ahead of the 2023 season. Tannehill has no guaranteed money in that year. Therefore, releasing Tannehill would cost the Titans just $5 million in base salary. That would be a saving of $27 million from his current 2023 cap number of $32 million.
However, any restructures the Titans do in the next two years would make it more costly for the Titans to release Tannehill in 2023.
Want more NFL news and analysis?
Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@PFN365) to stay up to date with all things around the NFL. Also, continue to visit Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis concerning the 2020 season and beyond.