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Inside Ryan Tannehill's negotiations with Dolphins

DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill and his camp didn't think a contract extension would be complete as recently as three weeks ago. Both sides were simply too far apart, according to agent Pat Dye.

But on May 11, nine days after the NFL draft, a breakthrough took place.

"They made a significant move in terms of total dollars, yearly average and improved the guarantee some," Dye explained of the Dolphins after Tuesday's press conference. "That was the first time that I, or I think Ryan, felt there was hope we might get something done."

After tough negotiations prior, both sides rode the newfound momentum into the next seven days. The Dolphins were first to make a significant step in meeting Tannehill's camp halfway. Then, Dye said he followed with "concessions" of his own. On May 18, both sides found a happy medium.

The result was a $96 million contract for Tannehill that includes $45 million in guarantees. Tannehill also will get $25 million guaranteed in the first three years, and his $77 million in new money makes him the sixth highest-paid quarterback in the NFL over the final four years, according to Dye.

Tuesday was a happy occasion for Tannehill, his family and the Dolphins' organization. But optimism wasn't nearly as high just a few weeks ago.

"I didn't know if it was going to happen or not," Tannehill admitted. "I still had two years left on my deal. It wasn't something I was expecting."

The Dolphins had some leverage. With the fifth-year option, Miami had Tannehill under contract at an affordable rate for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. That is partially why Miami was able to get Tannehill at somewhat of a discount over six years and keep Tannehill under that $100-million threshold.

There also was additional risk for Miami to wait much longer with Tannehill. Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts and Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks are two quarterbacks in Tannehill's 2012 draft class who expect to get huge extensions this summer. Luck's contract, for example, could set an NFL record for quarterbacks, while Wilson is already a Super Bowl winner and will be expensive. The Dolphins were able to get ahead of both incoming contracts before Luck and Wilson raise the bar.

Still, there are risks for both parties. For the Dolphins, Tannehill has never posted a winning season and never made a Pro Bowl. What if he has reached his ceiling and doesn't make strides? On the other hand, Tannehill may continue to ascend and become an elite quarterback. If that's the case, Miami getting Tannehill for less than $100 million would be a bargain.

Dye, who clearly has a lot of confidence in his client, believes the latter is more likely.

"I fully believe, and I've told them this, we may end up regretting this deal one day," Dye said candidly. "Because this guy has all the ingredients to be an elite player."