Dolphins Extend Ryan Tannehill

The Miami Dolphins announced an extension for Ryan Tannehill that will pay him $96 million over the next 6 years which works out to $77 million in new contract money. According to Pro Football Talk, Tannehill will receive $21.5 million in full guarantees with an additional $45 million in guarantees possible to earn based on roster status. The new money average of $19.25 million per year will make Tannehill the 6th highest paid QB in the NFL based on annual value.

Tannehill will become the highest paid quarterback in the NFL to never compete in a playoff game. The next closest non-playoff QB is Sam Bradford at $13 million  year,  byproduct of the old rookie pay system. The highest paid veteran to not play in a playoff game is Brian Hoyer at just over $5.5 million a year.

The contract represents a reversal of sorts, at least in terms of new money, in the trend for unproven quarterbacks in the NFL. The contract will outrank Colin Kaepernick’s by $250,000 a year and nearly $10 million in full guarantees. Kaepernicks contract is filled with escalators and de-escalators as well as health based incentives. Kaepernick had appeared in a Super Bowl and two championship games, but had a very limited sampling of regular season activity.

Andy Dalton had represented what looked to be the middle class QB market when he signed for $16 million a year and, like Kaepernick, very limited guarantees. This would have been the area where Tannehill would have been expected to slot, but the Dolphins were not going to be able to play that kind of hardball on the contract. Following the signing of Ndamukong Suh to a contract worth just over $19 million year it was going to be difficult to justify not paying a quarterback you profess to believe in more than Suh. Suh’s contract also created a need for cap flexibility starting in 2016 when his cap number increases to $28.6 million. Tannehill had been on the books for $16.155 million making the Dolphins cap the highest in the NFL next year.

Tannehill was scheduled to earn just over $18.27 million over the next two years, so the team is most likely paying Tannehill an additional $6.7 million for cap space. For those familiar with Mike Tannenbaum, who is now in charge of the Dolphins organization, he worked a similar “we believe in you” contract for cap relief for Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. In that contract the Jets gave Sanchez an additional $2.725 million in salary and $15 million plus in guarantees to obtain immediate cap relief and the rights to Sanchez for three additional years at what seemed like (and turned out to be) a very overvalued $13.49 million per year.

The biggest winners in this are Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, and, if he can show a pulse, Robert Griffin III.  Luck and Wilson are considered infinitely better than Tannehill and this contract should only increase their demands. Newton may be the biggest winner. The former number 1 pick has struggled at times, but it is clear he has no supporting cast. Tannehill was often considered to have a weak supporting cast, a theory that the Dolphins front office seemed to validate by releasing anyone associated with the passing game last year. This contract will give Newton the reason to ask for $20 million per year.

It will be interesting around the NFL to see how the rest of the teams view the Dolphins contracts. The Suh contract was the largest contract ever given to a defensive player and prior to Tannebaum’s hire they had given equally surprising deals to players such as Mike Wallace. Miami will be the first team in NFL history to have two players on contracts in excess of $19 million per year and now has top 10 players in terms of contract value at a 7 positions, based on estimates maintained by OTC. Those players are Suh (1st- DT), Pouncey (1st-C), Tannehill (6th-QB), Jordan Cameron (6th- TE), Reshad Jones (7th-S), Branden Albert (8th- LT), and Koa Misi (9th-43OLB). They also have specialists at punter and long snapper who are well compensated. This has been a difficult way to win in the NFL, but Miami is going go attempt to change that trend moving forward.

  • McGeorge

    Jason,
    I think this was a reasonable contract for Miami (and a very good one for Tannehill).

    #1 – it depends on how much the cap rises. If it goes up another 6-8 MM/year, then it’s ok. If the cap is flat, it may hut a little more.

    #2 – (this is the same argument I constantly repeat) There is a huge shortage of tier 2 QBs. Look at the Jets and Bills. They’d kill for Tannehill. Its not that Tannehill is so great, it’s that Geno is horrible. Going from horrible to average is worth 2-3 wins per year. That’s worth a few million per year.

    #3 – Tannehill has improved each year. If he improves a bit more, he will be fine. The big knock on him is his very low YPA.

    • Even if the cap rises $10 million in 2016, Suh will cost 18.69% of the cap in 2016. Mike Tannenbaum just being silly. BUT it is very encouraging to know that if he can continue to get jobs in high places, I just have to put the work in and maybe one day, a guy like me can make the same kinds of mistakes in two different places as well!

      • McGeorge

        I agree that the Suh signing was poor. But I’m ok with the Tannehill signing.

        I agree about it being good that Tannenbaum can continue to get jobs with division rivals 🙂

        I wish Idzik had stayed in the AFC East as well.

  • mike jones

    His APY is inline with schmucks like KAEP, DALTON, ALEX SMITH, CUTLER, ELI, PALMER. And only he and Kaep have any upside at all at this point. Heck, Matty Ice has averaged 5 wins in the easiest division in football over the last two years and he’s had an all star cast surrounding him on offense his entire time in the league yet he’s never won a playoff game. Objectively the fish can’t be criticized for this one, regardless of anyone’s personal affinity for this kids performance – not many qbs keep improving every year in this league, and those that do that are coached by Philbin need to be hung on to like grim death.

  • theowl

    Seems like a fair contract in this modern day game of RISK. The thing that stands out to me is the number of years of the extension. Which I am sure Tannehill is happy about. So even though Tannehill came into the league a year later and was a first round draft pick, his contract now ends the same year as Kaepernick and Dalton, 2020. I also agree with the fellows here… he has a lot of upside.

  • eddiea

    When you add up his guaranteed money, fully and possible, almost 70% is guaranteed. Seeing this, now explains how Wilson could, as some have assumed, can have a fully guaranteed contract. What I don’t understand is why Tannehill, a less than .500 QB, could get a contract like this and after seeing what Tannenbaum did to Jets Csp Miami ownership okayed this. Like I’m shaking my head, you know Seatle/Indy/Charlotte are cussing up a storm. Even though we know Luck was going to get that big contract, Indy didn’t realize how big it’d have to be. Maybe every son should try to be a QB since even okay/good ones now make $20M per yr

  • NW86

    Miami is trying to make a splash, that’s for sure, but this contract really isn’t nearly as bad as the Suh one. Not only is it more in line with the value around the league for QB vs. DT, but by doing it early, the numbers can be reported higher than they effectively are for the Dolphins. For example, it’s shown as a $19M/yr extension, but it can also be looked at as $16M/yr over the next 6 years if you include what he was scheduled to make the next 2 years. As for the guarantees – they probably include the $2M that was already fully guaranteed this year and the $16M that was injury guaranteed and realistically guaranteed for next year, because they weren’t going to cut him before it fully guarantees in March with no other backup plan. So he went from having $18M effectively guaranteed already, to $25M effectively guaranteed under the new deal. $7M guaranteed is a relatively small price to pay.

  • As others have mentioned, Tannehill was set to collect a $16.1M salary, guaranteed for injury only, after the Dolphins exercised the rookie option year. So that’s money that’s now become fully guaranteed based on what we know so far about Tannehill’s contract.

    The question is going to be what the signing bonus and base salaries will be. One would expect that the extension covers 2016 through 2019, and by signing the extension now, the Dolphins can prorate some of the signing bonus to the available 2015 cap space. From there, it all depends on how they prorated the remainder of the bonus.

    I would agree with those who say that Suh’s contract is a far bigger concern than Tannehill’s, from the Dolphins’ cap standpoint. That may change, though, depending on the structure of Tannehill’s deal, and I suspect Jason may believe the structure is poor, given how the Suh deal was structured.

    As for other QBs, Newton will certainly ask for $20M per year, Wilson is likely going to command $21M to $22M per year (particularly if the Seahawks reach the Super Bowl again), and I would not be surprised to see Luck get close to $24M per year, particularly if the Colts reach a Super Bowl this or next season. Furthermore, I won’t count on Luck agreeing to any extension until he sees what deals Wilson and Newton agree to. The Colts might want an extension sooner than later, but Luck knows he should get that $16.1M salary next year (as it’s highly unlikely his performance will drop to the point that the Colts cut him), so he has no reason to rush into an extension.

    • mike jones

      Well they couldn’t move on from him, so aren’t we splitting hairs about it being guaranteed for injury only? First game of the year for veterans and it is all 100% guaranteed anyway. The fins are betting on future improvement, and locking in joke cutler money, sans the nuts guarantee.

  • Kirk Vollmer

    16M is the going rate for QB’s of his caliber. I’m not actually sure this changes much with Luck, Wilson, and Newton’s contracts. Tannehill got a going rate contract and didn’t increase the rate in terms of APY. The only thing different is it sounds like Tannehill got more guarantees then Dalton or Kaepernick. Wilson and Luck are still going to be pushing for 20M to 25M APY. I think that was apparent before this contract as well. Rodgers got 22M and while neither could really say they are at Rodger’s level, Rodger’s signed his extension a couple of years ago. The market value has inflated by now so I’m guessing Wilson’s exension will likely match Rodgers or come very close, Luck’s will likely outpace Rodger’s by a couple million.

    • McGeorge

      Except it’s not 16MM.
      Its 4 additional years at 19.25MM, which is above the Tier 2 rate.

      Maybe the Dolphins would have been waiting a year to see how Tannehill improves.

      • Kirk Vollmer

        Looking at the structure of the contract now, I agree with you. It’s a lot more then I expected for him.

        • McGeorge

          After thinking about it more, it’s still a reasonable contract for Miami. They lock up a QB whose floor is Ok, and who may continue to improve. Looking at the browns or Jets , they’ve been searching for a QB for years, wasting draft picks here and there.

  • Richie

    I think it’s fascinating that the comments here basically alternate between “reasonable deal” and “Dolphins paid too much”.

    I think I tend to agree with “McGeorge”. The Dolphins basically have to pay Tannehill this much because the alternative is worse. I don’t know if the Dolphins will actually be good in 2015, but they shouldn’t be bad – so they won’t be in a position to draft the best QB in 2016. It’s either pay Tannehill this much, or wait 2 years and see what’s available on the scrap heap.

    If I understand correctly the advantage in signing Tannehill now is that they can put some of his bonus on the 2015 cap, where they have a little room left – so if they don’t sign him now, they probably can’t afford to sign him next year.

    Those $20M+ cap hits for Suh is what scares me. I assume the Dolphins know they can deal with it in 2016. And they can save money by cutting him before the 2018 or 2019 hits happen.

    • McGeorge

      I think the Dolphins may be concerned that the QB salary will sky rocket after Russel Wilson and Andrew Luck. Maybe they feel it’s better to pay this than risk an extra 1-2MM a year more if they wait a year.

      If I were the Dolphins I would keep Tannehill rather than having to draft another QB. Drafting QBs has a high failure rate, so it could take years and a few picks to get a comparable or better QB.

      • Richie

        I guess it comes down to what an owner’s goal really is. Is his goal to win Super Bowls? Or to just be good enough to keep the stadium full?

        Based on the last ~15 years, it seems that you pretty much have to have a quarterback who is capable of going on runs of high level of play in order to get to the Super Bowl. I’m not convinced yet that Tannehill is capable of that. I have seen him make a few plays that give me hope, but can’t really remember him taking over a game and leading the team to victory.

        But I think he is at least an average QB, and if you can combine that with a good pieces, the Dolphins should be able to win 7-10 games per year, and keep the stadium mostly full.

        • McGeorge

          I’d be curious to see how Tannehill does with a somewhat better OLine.

          As to your first point >>>
          I guess it comes down to what an owner’s goal really is. Is his goal to win Super Bowls? Or to just be good enough to keep the stadium full?

          I don’t know the answer to that. I assume most owners want to win the super bowl and try and hire people they think are qualified (even though they aren’t). But if the team is weak and rebuilding, or in a tough division, it may be sufficient to go for making a profit, which sucks from a fans point of view.

          That’s where a high salary floor helps. If the floor is 89% of the cap, an owner still has to make a major commitment to the team’s payroll each year.