Miami Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey met with the media Wednesday at the Senior Bowl, where he and several members of the front office and coaching staff, including head coach Joe Philbin, are scouting potential draft prospects. While Hickey covered many topics during his media availability, including how Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum and he interact and if he has any regrets from signing injury-prone players in last year's free agency, such as running back Knowshon Moreno and safety Louis Delmas, who both ended the year on injured reserve, a quick discussion of quarterback Ryan Tannehill could be the most interesting.
As Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post explains, Hickey admitted that the team is starting to work a contract extension for Tannehill, the team's first round quarterback who is entering his fourth season in the league. "There's cap ramifications and where we're at," Hickey explained when asked about extending Tannehill. "But we like the player and we're really pleased with his progress."
When then asked if Tannehill would "definitely be in a Dolphins uniform beyond 2015," Hickey replied, "We're excited about his future. Yep."
Tannehill signed a four-year contract, standard for first-round rookies, when he was drafted with the eighth overall pick in 2012. Under the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association, teams are given a fifth-year option in the rookie contract for first-round selections, an option that must be exercised prior to the start of their fourth year. In the case of the 2012 draft class, to include Tannehill, that deadline is May 3 of this season.
If the Dolphins do use the option, Tannehill, as a top ten selection, would receive compensation equal to the average salary of the top ten paid quarterbacks in the league. That would likely put Tannehill's salary around $15 million in 2016.
The Dolphins could also look to sign Tannehill to a long-term contract this offseason, the first year he can renegotiate his contract. Under the CBA, drafted players must wait until after their third year to try to re-work their contracts.
This offseason will see two other 2012 draft class quarterbacks receive contract extensions. The Indianapolis Colts are expected to make first-overall pick Andrew Luck the richest player in the league, though they also have the fifth-year option available to them for Luck. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, a third-round selection that year, will be entering the final year of his rookie deal in 2015, and will be coming off of two straight Super Bowl appearances, having won last year's championship and back in the game this year. Wilson is also expected to land a blockbuster deal, potentially rivaling Luck's contract.
Tannehill would likely come in behind those deals, which could be in the $20-$25 million per season range. Miami's quarterback would likely be between $15-$20 million per year.
Most people seem to believe the first step for Miami will be to exercise the fifth-year option, locking up Tannehill for the 2016 season and giving them more time to evaluate his development, as well as work on the salary cap situation before adding more years, and dollars, to Tannehill's cap number. Assuming Tannehill's long-term deal would be around $15 million per season, the fifth-year will cost about the same as a long-term contract, without the signing bonus to add on to the cap number.
Whatever the final decision on how the Dolphins extend Tannehill, everything is pointing to the team him locking up through at least the 2016 season.