The Tennessee Titans have traded with the Miami Dolphins for QB Ryan Tannehill. Tennessee now has a viable backup to push Marcus Mariota.
The Tennessee Titans have muddied their quarterback situation. Jon Robinson traded a 2020 fourth-round pick and a 2019 seventh-round pick. In return, the Dolphins send Tannehill and a 2019 sixth-round pick. Tennessee successfully convinced Tannehill to restructure his deal. The Titans will give Tannehill $7 million guaranteed for one year, and Miami will pay $5 million of that guarantee. Additionally, Tannehill’s new deal included up to $12 million in incentives, contingent on playing time.
Why the Titans traded for Tannehill
This move will be interpreted two ways from this moment until the Titans officially address it. Either the Titans don’t trust Marcus Mariota to stay healthy for a full season, or they would like both quarterbacks to compete for the starting job. Or maybe, both. Tannehill’s perception league-wide is polarizing. At some moments in his career (for example the first three weeks of 2018), he’s looked like a top-10 quarterback. At other times, he’s looked utterly clueless and unaware.
This will be the fourth (or maybe fifth, honestly I can’t keep count) offense for the former 2012 first-round pick. That is a lot of instability for a player, especially a quarterback. The Titans have added a lot of talent to surround whoever their starting quarterback is. They signed WR Adam Humphries and guard Rodger Saffold. They also beefed up their defense by adding defensive end Cameron Wake. Assuming Mariota gets the nod and starts in 2019, there will be no excuses.
What can Tannehill bring to the Titans?
While he might not be the same mobility wise, Ryan Tannehill can still throw the ball well. After a shoulder injury in 2018, Tannehill lost significant velocity. He can use this off-season to rest up and regain strength in his throwing arm. When he’s healthy, Tannehill’s arm talent is far superior to that of Mariota. There really aren’t many throws Tannehill can’t make, and when he gets into a rhythm, he is extremely accurate. Aside from his rookie season, Tannehill’s never posted a completion percentage below 60%, and has posted two seasons above 65%. If he is indeed named the backup, he will hands down be the best backup in the NFL.
The biggest knock on Tannehill is his pocket presence and processing. He has taken too many sacks because he struggles to identify and feel pressure. Instead of throwing the ball away, Tannehill will try to extend plays and end up getting sacked or turning the ball over.
However, from a talent standpoint, the Titans might be the best team Tannehill has ever played for. Not once in his six seasons with Miami did he have a top-five scoring defense, or an offensive line as strong as Tennessee’s. If the Titans can establish the running game behind Derrick Henry, and continue to play great defense, Tannehill can be successful. If not, then at the worst Tannehill is a serviceable backup.
What does the Tannehill trade mean for the Titans?
I think this is a great trade for both teams, especially the Titans. For $5 million, the Titans have an emergency plan for when Mariota misses time in 2019. Notice I said when, and not if. Since he entered the league in 2015, Mariota has left seven games with an injury, and missed another eight entirely. He’s sprained the MCL in his left knee, sprained his right knee, broken his right leg, injured his hamstring and injured his ulnar nerve. That is quite the list. If anything, it would be a stretch to believe Mariota won’t get hurt in some in 2019. Therefore, I like this move for the Titans.
Ryan Tannehill gets a fresh start on a team with a successful running game and defense. The Titans receive a veteran quarterback that can compete and push Mariota. Hopefully, the two can bring out the best in each other. Adding Tannehill on a one-year deal also frees up the Titans to draft a QB and start fresh in 2020. Mariota is entering the final year in his contract, and if neither quarterback pans out, the Titans can start anew in the 2020 NFL Draft.
As a long-time Miami Dolphins fan and former owner of Dolphins Report on CBS Sports, it is bittersweet to see Tannehill move on from South Beach. Regardless of what his former teammates might say, he gave 100% to the organization and put the team first. For that, I am thankful, and I am excited to get to watch him start fresh in Nashville for the Tennessee Titans.
For more Tennessee Titans coverage, follow Eric Roddy on Twitter @RoddyFootball