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Ryan Tannehill re-signs with Tennessee Titans

We review Ryan Tannehill’s breakout 2019 season and how it could affect his 2020 free agency.

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill reacts after a turnover on downs during the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE Mar 15 2:30 p.m.: ESPN’s Jeff Darlington is reporting the deal is for four years, $118 million with $62 million fully guaranteed.

UPDATE Mar 15, 2:17 p.m.: Ryan Tannehill has agreed to terms on a new contract with the Titans, per Ian Rapoport. The Titans will no longer need to use their franchise tag on Tannehill and could use it on Derrick Henry if they prefer.

We could be looking at one of the biggest free agency periods in recent memory if some of the notable names actually hit the open market. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Derrick Henry are just a few of the big names set to hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year opens on March 18th. One or more stands a good chance of signing a contract with their current team before then, but there is a chance one or more is taking calls when the tampering period opens on March 16th.

2019 in review

Ryan Tannehill entered 2019 as a backup to the Tennessee TitansMarcus Mariota after being traded by the Miami Dolphins. He was expected to have a shot at competing for a starting job, but few expected the level of success he was able to achieve. A 2-4 start to the year forced Tennessee to bench Mariota in favor of Tannehill, and that was the best decision it could’ve made. Tannehill turned Titans around in the second half of the season and finished the year with the highest passer rating (117.5) in the league. He threw for 2,724 yards and 22 scores with six interceptions while completing 70.3% of his passes. This was good enough to earn him his first Pro Bowl nod. He didn’t put up spectacular numbers in the postseason, but was good enough to help Tennessee advance to the AFC title game before falling short to the eventual Super Bowl champs, the Kansas City Chiefs. Now the 31-year-old is in a position to capitalize.

Tannehill is worth more than the $2 million he earned last season. The oft-injured signal caller looked like a starting-caliber option during his Comeback Player of the Year campaign, but his sample size is small. He age and lack of sustained success could make it hard for teams to offer him a major deal, but he’s still a better choice than the starting quarterbacks on several teams.

Possible destinations

Tannehill didn’t do it alone, but he was a big part of why a Tennessee team that was considered a long shot to make the playoffs early on was able to get within one win of the Super Bowl. A competent player like him with significant NFL experience can raise the floor of any team with decent talent significantly. There are a couple teams that could be good fits.

One team that comes to mind is the Chicago Bears, who missed the playoffs after being favored to win the NFC North at the start of 2019. Third-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky had a down year, but still managed to lead his team to an 8-8 record in a division with the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers in it. His accuracy as a passer was scrutinized repeatedly, so replacing him with last season’s most efficient passer doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. Chicago has a much more talent at wide receiver than Tennessee, so Tannehill could be even better.

Another option to consider is the Los Vegas Raiders, who are expected to chase after Tom Brady. They don’t have a good shot at landing him though, so they’ll likely have to settle for less. There hasn’t been much faith in Derek Carr in the two seasons Jon Gruden has been the Raiders’ head coach, and the team is looking to start anew following its move from Oakland. There won’t be too many other Pro Bowl quarterbacks to choose from. The Indianapolis Colts could also be in the mix if they decide to move on from Jacoby Brissett.

Do the Titans want to keep him?

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported in January that Tennessee is prepared to bet the house on Tannehill. According to Rapoport, the Titans are willing to franchise tag him or give him a lucrative extension that would keep him with the team for 2020 and beyond. While this is a possibility, there are other options Tennessee is rumored to be considering. Tom Brady is still a name that holds weight in the NFL, and he could receive serious consideration if he doesn’t appear poised to return to the New England Patriots. Philip Rivers and Andy Dalton aren’t out of the mix either. One thing that’s certain is that Tennessee isn’t willing to let Tannehill walk without a fight.

Fantasy implications

It took a few weeks for Tannehill to take over as a starter, and he finished below the league average for starting quarterback fantasy points because of that. He was more productive than Sam Darnold, Daniel Jones, and Jacoby Brissett. He needs to prove that he can maintain last year’s production over the course of an entire season, as his numbers dropped off significantly for a majority of the playoffs. I think he’s a middle of the road quarterback with a full year of starting snaps under his belt. Not quite top 10, but probably lower than 20th.

Rumored interest

No teams appear to be actively pursuing Tannehill, and it seems like he’s most likely to return to the Titans for at least one more season. Teams could benefit from his services, but only the Titans value him as a first option for the time being. This could change as free agency really gets rolling in March.