Armando Salguero

It begins: Dolphins trying to trade Ryan Tannehill but details make it tough task

Miami Dolphins management say they’re happy with Ryan Tannehill

Miami Dolphins VP Mike Tannenbaum and GM Chris Grier, say they are happy with QB Ryan Tannehill as they talk to the media about the upcoming 2018 Draft Day.
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Miami Dolphins VP Mike Tannenbaum and GM Chris Grier, say they are happy with QB Ryan Tannehill as they talk to the media about the upcoming 2018 Draft Day.

Ryan Tannehill is available.

That’s the message the Miami Dolphins have given teams in recent days, as the team is taking the first of a handful of steps toward moving on from their longtime starting quarterback.

The Dolphins have engaged in trade conversations with several times about Tannehill. That news was first reported by the NFL Network, although widely expected and no surprise to readers of this space, which reported in December the team was moving on from Tannehill.

The Washington Redskins are one team the Dolphins have engaged, per one source.

Interestingly, a source tells the Miami Herald the “trade talks” are mostly the Dolphins letting teams know Tannehill is available. The trade talks are mostly the Dolphins calling and or instigating the contact. And the trade talks are mostly preliminary.

The point is the trade market for Tannehill is not expected to be sizable for multiple reasons. Those reasons:

Tannehill is not likely to be considered a starting quarterback for most teams (except Miami the past seven seasons) because of his past inability to overcome issues of pocket awareness, instincts, movement within the pocket, anticipation and other smaller things.

So few teams would be currently looking to build around Tannehill -- even for a short time -- the way the Denver Broncos decided to do with Ravens QB Joe Flacco.

Tannehill, according to multiple league personnel people, is deemed more a valuable backup who can help a team in stretches if the starter is hurt but can also serve as an example to a younger quarterback on how to carry himself and prepare.

The problem with all this is Tannehill’s contract is one that is typically reserved for not just an NFL starting quarterback but a very good NFL starting quarterback. Tannehill’s salary cap hit with the Dolphins this season is scheduled to be $26..6 million against the $188 million salary cap.

Miami’s scheduled 2019 cap number for Tannehill is only $400,000 less than the Patriots have scheduled as a salary cap number for Tom Brady.

Tom Brady has won six Super Bowls in New England.

And while the Dolphins once upon a time believed Tannehill to be worth that kind of cap hit, they no longer do. They have declined this offseason multiple opportunities to say Tannehill is in their plans, defaulting instead to the narrative that the new coaching staff has been busy evaluating the roster, including Tannehill, and that evaluation wasn’t complete.

The, of course, is bunk.

Tannehill has played seven years in Miami. General manger Chris Grier was part of the draft braintrust that selected Tannehill in the first round in 2012 and has watched every Tannehill game and practice the past three years as GM.

Tannehill is a known talent to the organization.

Miami’s problem is he is also known to practically every other NFL team.

And in a trade scenario, a team would have to take on Tannehill’s contract unless the player agrees to renegotiate that deal. And to do that, Tannehill would likely want to go wherever he might be traded and would also have to embrace his new role.

Tannehill is believed to want to go to a team where he might have a chance to compete for a starting job. And while that can change as the market unfolds, it doesn’t help any trade talks right now.

So it’s possible the Dolphins will have to end up simply releasing Tannehill before the season.

That will save the team $18.7 million of cap space this year if they do it with a post-June 1 designation.

This looming Tannehill departure from the Miami roster is the most significant but by no means the last that will happen this offseason.

It’s going to be a blood bath, folks.

The NFL Network also reported Saturday the Dolphins have told defensive end Andre Branch he will be released this offseason. Again, no surprise.

Branch has been mostly a rotational player the past two seasons -- one that also endured various injuries.

And that role and his production (1.5 sacks in 2018) is not commensurate with the $9 million cap cost he’s scheduled to have in 2019. So he will be cut and the Dolphins will save $7 million.

That won’t be all.

Expect ...

The Dolphins to rescind the $9.38 million guaranteed option on receiver DeVante Parker. That move will save the entire amount as it makes Parker a free agent.

The Dolphins to cut starting left guard Josh Sitton. who has a $7 million scheduled cap hit. That move will save $5 million. Sitton, a source told the Miami Herald last week, expects to be cut.

The Dolphins to cut or (try to) trade defensive end Robert Quinn. That move would save the team $12.9 million in cap cost without leaving any dead money behind. This is the biggest no-brainer of them all.

The Dolphins may also be tempted to cut receiver Danny Amendola. Amendola led the team in receptions last season with 59 but he’s 33 years old, will be 34 during the season and is scheduled to cost $6 million, all of which the Dolphins can save by cutting him.

The Dolphins also have significant decisions to make with looming free agents Cameron Wake, the team’s longtime prolific edge rusher, and running back Frank Gore. Neither are currently signed for 2019.

Wake is 37 years old.

Gore will be 36 years old in May.

Armando Salguero has covered the Miami Dolphins and the NFL since 1990, so longer than many players on the current roster have been alive and since many coaches on the team were in middle school. He was a 2016 APSE Top 3 columnist nationwide. He is one of 48 Pro Football Hall of Fame voters. He is an Associated Press All-Pro and awards voter. He’s covered Dolphins games in London, Berlin, Mexico City and Tokyo. He has covered 25 Super Bowls, the NBA Finals, and the Olympics.