Dolphins coach Adam Gase continues to stand firmly in support of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and know this:
Finding someone better than Tannehill in the next year would be very difficult, which clearly helps Tannehill’s chances of being retained.
A few points to consider:
• There will be very few appealing options in free agency. There are only four starting quarterbacks in line for free agency next spring, and only one --- Washington’s Kirk Cousins (90.5) --- is clearly trending better than Tannehill (83.6).
The other three: the Jets’ Ryan Fitzpatrick (NFL-high 10 interceptions), the Rams’ Case Keenum (75.4 passer rating) and newly-appointed San Francisco starter Colin Kaepernick (83 passer rating since 2014).
Cousins, earning the $19.9 million franchise tag, hasn’t been able to strike a longterm deal with Washington but might never make it to the free agent market next March. Kaepernick could be in demand if he thrives over the next 11 games.
Among backup quarterbacks set to become unrestricted free agents: Blane Gabbert (just lost his starting job to Kaepernick), Geno Smith, Brian Hoyer, EJ Manuel, Mike Glennon, Ryan Nassib and Landry Jones. Not a good group.
• What about trading for a quarterback? Not sure there’s a solution there. The Patriots likely aren’t going to deal Jimmy Garoppolo to a division rival.
Minnesota needs Sam Bradford in case Teddy Bridgewater’s knee isn’t healed by the start of next season, though Bradford eventually could be moved.
Jay Cutler (85.9 career rating) has a 67-69 record and clearly isn’t the answer at 33. The Dolphins aren’t pursuing a trade for him this season.
Even if Dallas surprisingly traded Tony Romo because of Dak Prescott’s emergence, Romo’s back issues would make him a major risk.
• There’s no sure-fire franchise quarterback in the draft. ESPN’s Mel Kiper has two quarterbacks in his top 15: Clemson’s DeShaun Watson 7th and UM’s Brad Kaaya 14th.
ESPN’s Todd McShay has three: Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer 18th, Watson 24th and Kaaya 30th. But there’s no assurance any of the three will turn pro.
McShay said the 6-4 Kizer “is a big, highly intelligent player whose raw tools translate nicely to the next level. He has a bit of a longer delivery when throwing downfield, and his accuracy from inside the pocket could improve, but Kizer should continue to get better with more snaps.”
McShay says the 6-2 Watson “lacks ideal size and will need to adjust to a pro-style system, but Watson has the tools to develop into a good starter in the NFL if developed and used properly.”
On Kaaya, McShay said: “He'll need to add some bulk and strength to his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame, but he can really excel in a precision/timing-based offense. Decisive with his full-field reads, Kaaya has shown very good accuracy on short-to-intermediate throws and consistently made good pre-snap decisions.”
Kiper also likes Virginia Tech’s 6-4 juniot Jerod Evans: “Intriguing prospect. He has  touchdown passes to just one interception.”
Among seniors, Kiper’s top three are Mississippi’s Chad Kelly (nephew of former UM star Jim Kelly, 13 TDs, four picks), Iowa’s CJ Beathard (9, 4) and Minnesota’s Mitch Leidner (5, 4).
CBS draft analyst Dane Brugler said Kelly, who could move into the first round, has “competitive toughness, both physically and mentally, [that] are off the charts for the position as he plays, with the fearless mentality that his teammates rally around.
“While a fearless passer who isn't shy about ripping throws downfield, Kelly belongs in gamblers anonymous because of his propensity to take chances. Although he has the arm strength to get away with snap throws without setting his base, his accuracy tends to suffer due to his inconsistent mechanics and release technique.”
• Tannehill is due to make $17.9 million next season (up from $8 million this season), with a $20.3 million cap hit because of prorated signing bonuses.
But if the Dolphins cut him to escape paying him that salary, he would have a $10.4 million cap hit next season, with dead money cap hits of $4.6 million and $2.3 million the following two seasons, per overthecap.com.
According to his deal, $3.3 million of his $17.9 million salary next season already has been guaranteed; the remaining $14.4 million becomes guaranteed on the fifth day of the league year next March. So that’s the date, realistically, when a decision needs to be made.
Gase is expected to make the call on Tannehill’s future.
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