Ryan Tannehill and Robert Quinn seemed to be the Dolphins’ two biggest no-brainer cuts as free agency began.
Neither lived up to their big contracts in 2018, and both carried huge cap numbers in 2019 ($26.6 million for Tannehill, $12.9 million for Quinn).
And yet, as the sun dawned on the second day of free agency, both were still on the roster.
Now, there’s a reasonable explanation as to why Tannehill remains with the team: The Dolphins don’t have a starting quarterback.
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Negotiations with Teddy Bridgewater continue, but there’s not guarantee he signs in Miami. The remaining options — Blake Bortles, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brock Osweiler — are unappealing.
An argument can be made that Tannehill is the best of the remaining bunch, and if the Dolphins can get him to renegotiate his salary so that it’s more in line with his abilities, it could almost make sense. The Dolphins have plenty of time to decide on Tannehill; he has no salary guarantees until the start of the regular season.
But what about Quinn?
This one is more puzzling.
Quinn is owed $12.9 million in 2019, which would make him one of the 15 highest-paid defensive ends in football. That’s not commensurate with his performance in 2018, when he tallied 6 1/2 sacks — good for a tie for 49th in the league.
So it’s hard to see what, if any, trade value Quinn has. But the Dolphins are seemingly using all the time allowed to broker one. Quinn is owed a $1.1 million roster bonus on Friday, which would seem to be a hard deadline for the Dolphins to cut him.
UPDATED (5:23 p.m.): The deadline passed and Quinn remained on the Dolphins’ roster, so he will be paid the $1.1 million bonus.
So what now?
What if they pay the bonus, and then trade him either after the draft or before the start of the season, when defensive end-needy teams become more desperate? The team that trades for him would only be on the hook for his $11.8 million base salary (still high, but slightly more manageable), and the Dolphins might think that paying $1.1 million is a fair price for a third-day pick in 2020.
Of course, that’s risky. A trade market might not materialize, and they will have simply lit a million dollars on fire.
Then, there’s this possibility: They simply don’t have any other defensive ends they trust on their roster, and need the body.
They are comfortably under the salary cap even before cutting Tannehill, and Quinn will be off their books one way or the other in 2020, when the Dolphins are really expected to make some moves.
And so, we cannot discount the possibility, however remote, that both Tannehill and Quinn are on their roster in the weeks and months to come.
It’s a truly remarkable development.