In the offseason’s most-anticipated roster move, the Dolphins traded the team’s starting quarterback for most of the past seven seasons to the Tennessee Titans on Friday. Miami also shipped out a 2019 sixth-round pick while receiving a 2020 fourth-round selection and a 2019 seventh-rounder.
The Dolphins had been conspicuously non-committal on Tannehill since the end of the 2018 season, hinting that a trade or his release was on the horizon.
“We would like to thank Ryan for his commitment to the Miami Dolphins over the last seven seasons,” Dolphins General Manager Chris Grier said. “Ryan is a tireless worker who always put the team first. We wish him the best with the next step of his career.”
Tannehill is coming off a 2018 season in which he started 11 games and threw for 1,979 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions while completing 64.2 percent of his passes and registering a passer rating of 92.7.
The Dolphins invested seven seasons developing Tannehill, and the result was a 42-46 record.
Tannehill, who has a cumulative passer rating of 87.0, consistently struggled on third downs. That stifled the Dolphins’ offense for the six seasons he started — he was lost for the 2017 season after a training-camp knee injury — no matter who was the team’s play-caller.
Several players from last year’s Dolphins team had privately expressed their belief that it’s time for the franchise to move on and start fresh with a younger quarterback who has more upside.
Friday’s deal became official when Tannehill agreed to restructure his contract, changing his base salary from $18.75 million to what’s being reported as a one-year, fully guaranteed deal that has a base of $7 million, and can go up to $12 million with playing-time incentives.
By trading Tannehill, the Dolphins clear $13.4 million in cap space, which can be used to sign free agents, or enable the franchise to sign Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard to a contract extension, which is atop the team’s to-do list this offseason.
Now that the Dolphins have moved on from Tannehill, who turns 31 in July, the franchise will either add a veteran quarterback to serve as the starter or draft one in the 2019 NFL draft. It’s possible that Miami will do both.
This past week, Miami failed to lure Tyrod Taylor or Teddy Bridgewater, as both veteran quarterbacks passed on a meager two-year, $10 million contract the team was offering. Taylor signed with the Los Angles Chargers, where he’ll serve as Philip Rivers’ backup, and Bridgewater returned to New Orleans, where he’ll hold the clipboard behind Drew Brees.
Miami only has two quarterbacks — Luke Falk, a second-year player claimed off the waiver wire last offseason, and Jake Rudock, a former St. Thomas Aquinas standout — on the roster. Only Rudock has played in an NFL game, completing 3 of 5 passes while a member of the Detroit Lions in 2017.
Brock Osweiler and David Fales, who served as Tannehill’s backups last season, are both unrestricted free agents. Miami hasn’t expressed an interest in re-signing either player, but that could change.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Colin Kaepernick, Sam Bradford, Blake Bortles, Josh McCown, Mike Glennon, A.J. McCarron and Robert Griffin III are the best of the veteran quarterbacks still available in free agency.
The Dolphins hold the No. 13 pick in the 2019 draft and six other selections in the later rounds. Miami could use one or more of those picks on a quarterback.
Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, the Heisman Trophy winner, will likely be the first quarterback taken and is viewed as a lock for top-five selection. And Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, Missouri’s Drew Lock and Duke’s Daniel Jones are viewed as the other potential first-rounders.
All four quarterbacks are considered top 50 prospects in this draft.
The next tier of quarterbacks are West Virginia’s Will Grier, N.C. State’s Ryan Finley, Buffalo’s Tyree Jackson and Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham, who are all projected to be selected in rounds 2-4.
But many in the NFL feel the Dolphins have their sights set on one of the quarterbacks that will likely be available in the 2020 draft because Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Georgia’s Jake Fromm are considered franchise-changing talents.
The Dolphins decision-makers have not hidden the fact the franchise is rebuilding, and all of Miami’s moves so far hint that winning in 2019 is not the top priority. General Manager Chris Grier has vowed to lay a foundation that will make the Dolphins a perennial playoff team, and it appears that journey will begin with finding Tannehill’s replacement.
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