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.