Why releasing or trading Tennessee Titans' Ryan Tannehill this offseason is 'not feasible'

The Tennessee Titans will have an opportunity to move on from quarterback Ryan Tannehill and his contract.

Don’t bet on it being this offseason, though.

While one can question Tannehill’s viability to be the quarterback to lead the Titans to the Super Bowl, Tennessee releasing or trading him before the 2022 season is “not feasible,” according to former NFL agent and salary cap expert Joel Corry, who writes for CBS Sports.

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Tennessee, which is $6.2 million over its projected cap space for next season, according to OverTheCap, would incur a $57.4 million dead cap charge by cutting Tannehill. The penalty would be the total of his $29 million fully guaranteed base salary for 2022 and $28.4 million in prorated signing bonus money left on his contract. That would come with an $18.8 million loss in cap space.

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Trading Tannehill before June 1 would result in a lower dead cap hit of $28.4 million and $10.2 million in cap savings, but the receiving team would be on the hook for his fully guaranteed $29 million base salary for next season. Tennessee would likely have to pay part of that salary to facilitate the deal, eating into its cap savings. There’s also the question as to who would want Tannehill after the season he had – including the AFC divisional-round loss to the Bengals, he threw 17 interceptions – and who their quarterback would be for at least 2022.

Tannehill signed a four-year, $118 deal with the Titans after the 2019 season, but restructured his deal in June to facilitate the Julio Jones trade, which added two voidable years to the end of Tannehill’s deal, adding to the challenge of moving his contract.

“It’s not feasible and it wasn’t feasible really before he restructured his contract to accommodate for the Julio Jones trade,” Corry, a Nashville native, told The Tennessean. “There’s no good exit strategy unless you can find a trade and I don’t think anyone even wants to take on Ryan Tannehill’s fully guaranteed $29 million base salary coming for next season.”

If the Titans do want to move on from Tannehill, their best bet is waiting until after the 2022 season, when they could save $17.8 million against the cap by trading or cutting him before June 1, 2023.

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) fumbles the ball as he is hit by Houston Texans defensive end Jordan Jenkins (50) during the third quarter at NRG Stadium Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022 in Houston, Texas.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) fumbles the ball as he is hit by Houston Texans defensive end Jordan Jenkins (50) during the third quarter at NRG Stadium Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022 in Houston, Texas.

Tennessee’s path to upgrading the quarterback position for 2022 is drafting one or acquiring a veteran via free agency or trade. The latter is how the Titans upgraded the quarterback spot after the 2018 season. Tennessee acquired Tannehill from Miami for a fourth- and a seventh-round pick, and restructured his deal into an incentive-laden one-year contract. After Marcus Mariota struggled for the first six games of that season, Tannehill took over as the starter.


“Bring in somebody to push Tannehill,” said Corry of the notion of bolstering the quarterback depth for next season. “Whether that's Mitchell Trubisky or somebody like that. ... Or you draft a quarterback. It’s not the best year to find a quarterback, but maybe that’s a route to go as well."

In March 2020, Tannehill and star running back Derrick Henry were due for new deals. The Titans went the franchise-tag route with Henry (before eventually signing him to a new contract), then signed Tannehill to his current contract.

That contract essentially gave him three years of security: his 2020 and ‘21 salaries were fully guaranteed at signing, and on the fifth day of the 2021 league year, his 2022 base salary fully guaranteed as well.

“It’s pretty cut and dry,” said Corry. “(Tannehill) had leverage when he took over the job and his (2019) contract expired.”


Ben Arthur covers the Tennessee Titans for The USA TODAY Network. Contact him at barthur@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter at @benyarthur.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Ryan Tannehill: Tennessee Titans QB's contract limits 2022 options