The Miami Dolphins are expected to move on from quarterback Ryan Tannehill this offseason, with early rumors that the team is looking for a trade partner but will release their 2012 first-round pick if they cannot find a trade. This week, the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens agreed to a trade that will, when trades become permitted on March 13 with the start of the new league year, send quarterback Joe Flacco from Baltimore to the Broncos. Does that move impact Tannehill’s trade value or what he will find when he hits the open market?
Tannehill will turn 31 before the 2019 season begins. Flacco just turned 34. That should mean Tannehill has more of a market than Flacco, just based on the age of each player. The Broncos are not looking for a long term answer in their quarterback, with Flacco making sense. Tannehill could be a multi-year starter for a team - despite many Dolphins fans wanting him out of South Florida.
Tannehill is still a quality NFL starter, he just is not a pick up a team and carry them type of player. He needs an offensive line that can protect him, and he needs wide receivers who can create separation and make people miss once they have the ball. He is starting to have injury concerns, though his knee seems healthy now and the shoulder injury he sustained last year was on a play where his arm was wrenched backward just as he threw the ball - not timing of a hit and throw that happens routinely. There is a place for him as a starting quarterback in the league.
Does the trade of Flacco mean there is a trade market for Tannehill? Flacco is signed through the 2021 season, with a 2019 salary cap number of $26.5 million. That increases to $28.25 million in 2020, then becomes $24.25 million in 2021. With the trade, the Ravens are going to eat $16 million in dead money from his signing bonus, meaning the Broncos are free to cut Flacco without any dead money hitting their books.
Tannehill is signed through the 2020 season, with a $26.6 million cap number this year, then $25.1 million in 2020. If Miami were to trade him, they would absorb $13.4 million in dead money, with the new team seeing his cap number drop to his base salary of $18.7 million this season. That is not a hard cap hit for a starting quarterback, assuming a team would be looking at Tannehill as their starter. He could make sense as a win-now bridge quarterback for a team like the Jacksonville Jaguars (should they move on from Blake Bortles amd Cody Kessler) or New York Giants (should they move on from Eli Manning), or as an emergency option for a team like the Washington Redskins, who are expected to be without starter Alex Smith in 2019 after his leg was broken last season.
Baltimore will receive a fourth-round draft pick in return for Flacco. The Dolphins would likely be asking for a second- or third-round pick for Tannehill, knowing they would likely see a fourth- or fifth-round pick as the eventual compensation if a trade were made. Teams could just wait for Tannehill to hit the market, however, knowing Miami is going to cut him. The Dolphins could also - assuming the rumors that they are looking to 2020 to get their “franchise” quarterback - look to receive 2020 draft picks in a trade, giving them ammunition to trade up if needed to land the quarterback they want.
The trade of Flacco from Baltimore to Denver likely only impacts the Dolphins and Tannehill in setting a price point for a trade. Can the Dolphins find a trade partner?
Most likely, Tannehill is released and teams bid for him on the open market. The teams involved in chasing him remain the same, but they can probably get him for less money and without giving up draft collateral.
Tannehill will have to compete with other quarterbacks expected to be available this offseason, including Nick Foles and Teddy Bridgewater. Case Keenum will now likely be available as well, and players like Bortles and Manning would add to the available quarterbacks if or when they are released.
In the end, the Broncos are not a team where Tannehill could land now, but that may be about the extent of what the trade means for the future of Miami’s starting quarterback. The Dolphins are going to move on, and likely will have to do it by releasing Tannehill. Some team will sign him, and he likely will - at least - compete for a starting position.