DAVIE, Fla. -- About an hour into Miami Dolphins practice Thursday, starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill limped to the locker room after suffering a noncontact left knee injury during a scramble to the sideline.
The air was immediately taken out of a team that began training camp with playoff aspirations following a 10-win season. Although an MRI Thursday revealed Tannehill did not suffer a ligament tear, the team is discussing multiple options. The Dolphins are waiting on additional test results and realize it might be the best long-term solution to have Tannehill undergo a procedure to repair the partially torn ligaments. Surgery would likely would end his season, and team sources say that scenario remains on the table, according to ESPN's Jeff Darlington.
Let’s be clear: Without Tannehill, a $96 million franchise quarterback, the Dolphins aren’t likely to win 10 games. However, backup Matt Moore, who filled in when Tannehill injured the same knee late last season, remains Miami’s best option going forward.
The respect Moore, 32, has in the locker room is immense. Teammates love him and coaches have been adamant in saying he’s one of the best backups in the NFL. Moore proved it in 2016, going 2-1 as a starter to end the regular season, and lead the Dolphins to the postseason.
“You know how I feel about him. I love Matt Moore,” Dolphins offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said Thursday. “I sure don’t want to move on past [Tannehill] ... move on until we find out what the heck is going on in there. But sure, there’s a reason we have Matt Moore here, and we hope he never has to play. And if he does, he’ll be ready, and that’s the way it is.”
Moore knows the Dolphins’ offense better than anyone outside of Tannehill. The transition would be smooth. Moore also is an upgrade over Tannehill in two areas: throwing the deep ball and playing loose.
Miami’s trio of receivers -- Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry -- likely would make more catches for 30-plus yards this season with Moore at quarterback. Moore is also aggressive, not afraid to try to fit the ball into a tight window. Whether that would translate into victories remains to be seen.
Moore, 15-13 as an NFL starter, is entering his 10th season. Moore completed 63 percent of his passes last regular season with eight touchdowns and three interceptions for an 82.9 QBR. He was 29-of-36 for 289 yards and had a touchdown pass and an interception in the playoff loss at Pittsburgh.
If the Tannehill injury lingers, the Dolphins might need to sign a quarterback. Jay Cutler makes sense on some level because of his relationship with Dolphins coach Adam Gase. The pair spent 2015 together with the Chicago Bears and Cutler had one of his better seasons. Cutler also knows the offense. Sources told Darlington that Cutler would be willing to delay his broadcast career to play for Gase. But Cutler would only consider the move if he gets the chance to be the full-time starter (with starter money) for the entire season. The Dolphins are $17 million under the cap, so it is not out of the question.
Would the Dolphins win more games with Cutler? Probably not. He has a 68-71 career record as a starter.
Free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick is another option. He’s athletic and has talent. Miami is a progressive team that joined in as Kaepernick protested last season by kneeling during the national anthem. Four Dolphins took a knee before every game in 2016.
However, Kaepernick also had shown support for former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. That could be an issue in Miami, where a large population of Cuban exiles are anti-Castro. Kaepernick also has no ties to the Dolphins’ staff and isn’t a great fit for the offense.
Brock Osweiler? No thanks. Despite spending three seasons under Gase in Denver, first as quarterbacks coach and then as offensive coordinator, Osweiler has been inconsistent as a starter. Moore is better in this system and it wouldn’t be worth it for the Dolphins to give up future draft picks for an overpaid backup.
“The initial reaction is just be the next man up,” Christensen said. “You gotta keep going. You gotta keep guys going and you can’t let the air go out of practice. That’s football. [Injuries] are going to happen somewhere in this season. It’s going to happen somewhere in part of this game.”
That next quarterback up should be Moore, who is the safest and most solid option for Miami.