The Dolphins have traded Ryan Tannehill to the Tennessee Titans, ending a seven-year marriage that leaves the team with added draft ammunition but no clear starting quarterback.
The Dolphins are sending Tannehill and their sixth-round pick in this year’s draft for the Titans’ seventh-rounder this year and a fourth-round pick in 2020.
That’s a coup for Chris Grier. He picks up a valuable asset in the quarterback-rich 2020 draft for a player he most likely was going to cut anyway.
As part of the trade, Tannehill agreed to rip up his existing contract and sign a new one-year, $7 million fully guaranteed deal that NFL Network reports is worth upwards to $12 million if he meets all of his incentives.
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To facilitate the trade, the Dolphins agreed to pay $5 million of Tannehill’s $7 million salary in the form of a signing bonus. The move clears some $8 million in cap space this year and $25 million next year, and nets the Dolphins a fourth-round pick in return.
“Thank you to the fans, my teammates, and the Dolphins organization for the last seven years,” Tannehill wrote on Twitter late in the day Friday. “I’ve experienced some of the greatest blessings of my life in South Florida, and also faced some challenges that made me the man I am today. Grateful for it all.”
Tannehill will back up Marcus Mariota in Tennessee, and given recent history, can reasonably expect to play. Mariota has missed games in all four of his NFL seasons for a variety of injuries, including knee, hamstring, arm and shoulder.
Tannehill finishes his Dolphins career having thrown 123 touchdown passes and 75 interceptions with a 62.8 completion percentage and a passer rating of 87.
His record as a starter was 42-46 and he never appeared in a playoff game.
“We would like to thank Ryan for his commitment to the Miami Dolphins over the last seven seasons,” said Dolphins general manager Chris Grier. “Ryan is a tireless worker who always put the team first. We wish him the best with the next step of his career.”
Tannehill was a survivor in Miami, earning two contracts that paid him $67.6 million over the past seven years (plus the $5 million paid out Friday) and playing under three head coaches and four offensive coordinators.
Friday’s trade is an end of an era in Miami.
Tannehill, taken by Jeff Ireland and Joe Philbin with the eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft, leaves Miami ranked third in franchise history in passing yards (20,434), touchdowns (123) and interceptions (75) and fourth in games played (61).
In a career defined by inconsistency, Tannehill’s best season was derailed by a knee injury that altered the trajectory of his career, and might have ultimately led to the firing of Adam Gase.
Tannehill partially tore his ACL late in the 2016 season, but decided against surgery. It ultimately proved to be the wrong decision. He tore the ligament completely the following training camp, missed the entire 2017 season and then regressed in 2018.
Gase bet his job on Tannehill becoming a star. He lost that bet, and his job, the day after the season.
So what next for the Dolphins?
In the short term: Find a quarterback (or two) in free agency and the draft, and let them compete with Jake Rudock and Luke Falk.
Then, the calendar turns to 2020, when Grier will truly get to work.
He is projected to have more than $120 million in salary cap space and, including compensatory selections, at least 10 draft picks. And unless they exceed all expectations this year, the Dolphins will draft very high in the first round, setting themselves up to take one of the best quarterbacks.
So the true successor to Ryan Tannehill could be Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa. And, in a roundabout way, Friday’s trade brought them one step closer to making that a reality.