Dave Hyde of the Sun Sentinel reports the Dolphins have had internal discussions about a long-term contract for Tannehill. The deal reportedly would be for seven years with a maximum value of $105 million, which includes incentives. Doing simple math, this type of contract gives Tannehill an average of $15 million per year.
Hyde also reports the contract would be guaranteed for two years and the team would have an out clause before the third season. This layout is similar to what the Cincinnati Bengals did last season with Andy Dalton, who signed a six-year, $115 million contract.
Here is the big question: Is Tannehill a $100-plus million quarterback? There are two ways to answer this question, and a strong case can be made either way.
Tannehill’s critics say absolutely not. He is 23-25 as a starter and has yet to lead the Dolphins to the playoffs or have a winning season. Football is a team sport, so it’s not all on him. However, elite franchise quarterbacks elevate the play of those around them, and Tannehill has not yet proven he can do that. Tannehill also struggles mightily to throw the deep ball, which is a weakness that may not be fixable. With a long-term contract, the Dolphins are essentially committing to a short and intermediate passing game that doesn’t attack opponents deep.
In contrast, Tannehill supporters make a case that he is worth $100-plus million simply because that is what the market dictates. Quarterbacks play the glamour position and get paid handsomely for it. Tannehill also is coming off a career year where he threw for 4,045 yards, 27 touchdowns and had a 92.8 passer rating. If quarterbacks such as Dalton (83.5 rating), Jay Cutler (88.6), Colin Kaepernick (86.4) and Matthew Stafford (85.7) all recently signed $100-plus million extensions, why not Tannehill?
Is Tannehill a top-10 quarterback? No. But neither are these aforementioned $100-million quarterbacks in his peer group. The market may be overblown, but that is something the Dolphins can’t control.
What the Dolphins can control is their options and, ultimately, their decision. The team can work out an extension, use its fifth-year option for $15 million in 2016, or roll the dice and let Tannehill play out the final year of his rookie contract.
If I’m the Dolphins, I would take advantage of the fifth-year option. It would keep Tannehill in the fold for two more years for approximately $17 million. After that point, the Dolphins should definitely know if Tannehill is a franchise quarterback.
The Dolphins must get this quarterback decision right for the long-term health of the franchise.