The biggest question of the Tennessee Titans’ offseason has been answered.
It’s Ryan Tannehill.
The Titans – rumored to be a potential landing spot for Tom Brady – re-signed their Pro Bowl quarterback Sunday, a day before the start of the free agency negotiating period. The deal is for a reported four years and $118 million with $62 million fully guaranteed and sets up the franchise to begin free agency with a degree of certainty.
The second and third years of the deal are fully guaranteed ($54.5 million), according to ESPN. However, the pact includes an option for the team to walk away after three years at a cost of $5 million in dead money.
Tennessee repeatedly has tried – and failed – for more than a decade to draft and develop a starting quarterback. Vince Young (third overall, 2006), Jake Locker (eighth overall, 2011) and Marcus Mariota (second overall, 2015) all had successful moments, but none earned a second contract from the Titans. Young was the only one of the three who had a winning record, but he spent his six seasons in Tennessee trading off the starting job with Kerry Collins.
Tannehill, the eighth overall pick by Miami in 2012, replaced Mariota in Week 7 of the 2019 regular season and never looked back. He set several career-highs and led the team to seven wins in the final 10 games, which was enough to secure the AFC’s second wild card spot. The Titans then won two playoff games and reached the AFC Championship game for the first time in 18 years.
The 31-year-old led the NFL in passer rating (117.5), yards per pass attempt (9.6) and yards per completion (13.6) – all career-highs. He also completed 70.3 percent of his passes, well above his career rate prior during seven seasons with the Dolphins, and was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time.
The Titans acquired him last March in a trade, the terms of which included Miami paying the bulk of his 2019 salary. That made him one of the great bargains of the 2019 season.
Now, Tennessee will pay true market value for the most important position in the game. According to spotrac.com, Tannehill will earn between $17.5 million (2020) and $29 million (2022) in base salary during the course of the deal. He will count $22.5 million against the salary cap this season and as much as $34 million (2022).
The contract averages $29.5 million per season, which currently ranks seventh among all NFL quarterbacks. With Brady, Philip Rivers and several other notable signal callers in search of new deals, though, he is likely to move down that list – possibly even out of the top 10.
It also provides some degree of cost certainty as franchise officials work to bring back running back Derrick Henry – and possibly several others – as well as explore numerous free agent options over the next several days.