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A look at Ryan Tannehill’s contract following Matthew Stafford extension

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NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Miami Dolphins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins signed quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a four-year, $96 million contract extension in 2015, keeping him with the team through the 2020 season. The contract added $77 million in new money to the contract Tannehill was already under at the time, entering the final (non-fifth year option) year of his rookie contract. Now, as Tannehill misses the 2017 season with a knee injury, there is a discussion that Miami could use the lack of large guaranteed money remaining on the deal to get out from under the burden of the contract.

Except, is it really a burden?

Monday night, the Detroit Lions signed quarterback Matthew Stafford to a five-year, $135 million deal. That will pay him an average of $27 million per season over the life of the contract, with $92 million of the deal guaranteed, $60.5 million fully guaranteed, including a $50 million signing bonus. (All salary cap numbers from OverTheCap.com).

The two quarterbacks are fairly similar in terms of their stats. Tannehill has a career 62.7% completion rate, compared to Stafford’s 61.5%. Since Stafford has been in the league three years longer than Tannehill, the comparison is better as an average per season for both quarterbacks: Tannehill has 3,691.0 passing yards per season with 21.2 touchdowns and 13.2 interceptions; Stafford has 3,787.9 yards per season, with 23.4 touchdowns and 13.5 interceptions. Tannehill’s career quarterback rating is 86.5 while Stafford’s is 86.8. Stafford has been selected to one Pro Bowl (2014).

Comparing the two contracts:

Tannehill vs. Stafford (Salary cap numbers)

Ryan Tannehill Year Matthew Stafford
Ryan Tannehill Year Matthew Stafford
$20,300,000 2017 $16,500,000
$19,800,000 2018 $26,500,000
$21,050,000 2019 $29,500,000
$19,522,523 2020 $31,500,000
FA 2021 $30,000,000
2022 $23,000,000

Where does Tannehill’s contract stack up in the NFL as of right now?

Based on the average value per season of the current quarterback contracts, Tannehill is 16th:

Quarterback salary average per year

Player Average value FA Year
Player Average value FA Year
Matt Stafford $27,000,000 2023
Derek Carr $25,005,000 2023
Andrew Luck $24,594,000 2022
Drew Brees $24,250,000 2018
Kirk Cousins $23,943,600 2018
Joe Flacco $22,133,333 2022
Aaron Rodgers $22,000,000 2020
Russell Wilson $21,900,000 2020
Ben Roethlisberger $21,850,000 2020
Carson Palmer $21,000,000 2019
Eli Manning $21,000,000 2020
Philip Rivers $20,812,500 2020
Cam Newton $20,760,000 2021
Matt Ryan $20,750,000 2019
Tom Brady $20,500,000 2020
Ryan Tannehill $19,250,000 2021

In 2017, Tannehill’s salary cap number ranks him fifth at $20.3 million, behind Joe Flacco ($24.455 million), Carson Palmer ($24.135 million), Kirk Cousins ($23.9436 million), Matt Ryan ($23.750 million), and tied with Aaron Rodgers ($20.3 million). Stafford’s new contract has a salary cap number this season of just $16.5 million, which ranks 16th this season.

After 2017, Cousins and Sam Bradford could both be in line for huge contracts.

The 2018 salary cap numbers, Tannehill ranks 15th at $19.8 million:

Quarterback salary cap numbers - 2018

Quarterback Salary Cap Number
Quarterback Salary Cap Number
Matt Stafford $26,500,000
Derek Carr $25,000,000
Joe Flacco $24,750,000
Andrew Luck $24,400,000
Ben Roetlisberger $23,200,000
Eli Manning $22,200,000
Tom Brady $22,000,000
Russell Wilson $21,700,000
Matt Ryan $21,650,000
Cam Newton $21,500,000
Philip Rivers $21,000,000
Aaron Rodgers $20,900,000
Carson Palmer $20,625,000
Alex Smith $20,600,000
Ryan Tannehill $19,800,000

After the 2018 season, Palmer, Ryan, Alex Smith, Jameis Winston, and Marcus Mariota will all be hitting free agency, with several of those likely to jump over Tannehill (if they are not already there).

In 2019, Tannehill’s $21.5 million salary cap number is 12th as of now:

Quarterback salary cap numbers - 2019

Player Salary Cap Number
Player Salary Cap Number
Matt Stafford $29,500,000
Andrew Luck $27,525,000
Joe Flacco $26,500,000
Eli Manning $23,200,000
Cam Newton $23,200,000
Russell Wilson $23,200,000
Ben Roethlisberger $23,200,000
Derek Carr $22,500,000
Philip Rivers $22,000,000
Tom Brady $21,100,000
Aaron Rodgers $21,100,000
Ryan Tannehill $21,050,000

The post-2019 free agent class will include players like Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Paxton Lynch, and Dak Prescott, most of whom will likely re-sign with their teams by then on contracts that will stay ahead of Tannehill, or jump over him.

In Tannehill’s final year of his current contract, he is currently sixth in salary cap number - of the 20 players under contract. Stafford leads the way with a $31.5 million cap number, with Andrew Luck at $28.4 million, Flacco at $28.35 million, Derek Carr at $21.5 million, and Cam Newton at $21.1 million ahead of Tannehill’s $19.522523 million.

Joining Tannehill in the post-2020 projected free agent class are Drew Brees, Newton, Andy Dalton, Mitchell Trubisky, Pat Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, and DeShone Kizer.

Tannehill’s “huge” contract is quickly becoming an “average” starting quarterback contract, and should continue to fall as more extensions and re-signings happen over the next year or two. That is not to say the Dolphins and Tannehill do not work out a new deal on their own, giving the quarterback more guaranteed money while lowering his cap number, but the contract is really not that horrible for a starting quarterback in the league.