Ryan Tannehill is the future. And he has the bank account to prove it.
Tannehill signed a six-year contract extension Monday with the Dolphins that makes him one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL. The terms: $45 million guaranteed, with $96 million promised should he play out the entire deal.
Tannehill’s extension, which locks him up through 2020, puts him in line with the rest of the league’s second-tier quarterbacks. His $16 million annual average salary matches the contract given to Cincinnati Bengals starter Andy Dalton, and is slightly less than what the Kansas City Chiefs are paying Alex Smith.
“You look back at all the great players over the years, and most of them spent a significant amount of time in one place,” Tannehill told the team's website. “I didn’t know it was going to come this year. I had no expectations. But I’m so fortunate, so blessed to be in this situation and to be able to have the opportunity to spend the next six years here.”
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Said Dolphins executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum: “We are thrilled that we were able to sign Ryan to an extension. He is an ascending talent, a team leader and checks all of the boxes you are looking for at the position.”
Added general manager Dennis Hickey: “Signing Ryan to this deal is important to our franchise. He is a proven quarterback in this league that combines a talented skill set with work ethic, passion, toughness, and a team-first mentality. We are committed and believe in Ryan as our quarterback for the long-term and we are excited to be able to sign him to this extension.”
The contract provides long-term security for Tannehill, who was due to earn a little more than $2 million this year, and $16 million next under his rookie contract.
Tannehill becomes the first quarterback in the heralded class of 2012 to get a long-term extension. Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson are both playing under their original contracts, despite each having far more postseason experience.
Tannehill has not even gotten the Dolphins over .500 in his first three seasons as a pro, but has shown improvement each year.
Tannehill, who has never missed a start in his career, completed 66.4 percent of his passes for 4,045 yards, 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last year. His passer rating of 92.8 was fifth-highest in Dolphins history, and his 392 completions were a franchise record.
“You’re going to see a more polished Tannehill in 2015 in his second year in this offense and his best years are ahead of him,” Dolphins analyst John Congemi said Monday on the team’s in-house radio show.
The signing caps a frenzied first offseason for Tannenbaum, who has handed out more than $100 million in guarantees to Tannehill and Ndamukong Suh alone. That matches Tannenbaum’s blueprint from his time with the Jets: pay a huge premium for stars, and fill in the back end of the roster on the cheap.
In a way, he has gone all-in on Tannehill like he went all-in on Mark Sanchez in New York.
The Dolphins surely hope for better luck than his Jets experiment; Sanchez was a bust and off the roster just two years after signing a contract that included more than $20 million in guarantees.
Tannehill also easily becomes the highest-paid quarterback in Dolphins history. Dan Marino earned more than $6 million per year just twice in his career; Tannehill will earn more than twice that amount every year for the next six (assuming he plays out the length of his contract).
Tannenhill is just 26, but is already one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in team history. Assuming he doesn’t get hurt or benched this season, he’ll pass Jay Fiedler for third on the franchise’s all-time starts lists, and trail just Marino and Bob Griese.
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