AFC South reporter
INDIANAPOLIS — The Tennessee Titans may already be confident Ryan Tannehill will be their starting quarterback through 2023, even if they’re not saying it outright.
In his news conference Tuesday at the annual NFL Scouting Combine, new general manager Ran Carthon said, in part, that he’s “excited to move forward” with the veteran signal caller and that “right now, he’s a Titan and will be. a Titan.”
Prefacing a commitment to a player with “right now” can be an indication that a team is exploring all options with the individual, but Carthon’s assertion at the end of the statement — “he’s going to be a Titan” — says the Titans they may be inclined to keep Tannehill in Nashville.
“He’s under contract. I’m excited to move forward with him,” Carthon said. “I know everybody wants to make a big deal about the quarterback position and whether or not he’s going to be here, but you just have to accept the fact that Ryan is under contract for us. Right now, he’s a Titan and he’s going to be a Titan.”
There is a strong case for Tennessee to retain Tannehill, who is entering the final year of his contract. The Titans don’t have an obvious successor on their roster: 2022 third-round pick Malik Willis struggled last season in eight appearances, including three starts. The former Liberty star is still very raw. And with the No. 11 pick in this year’s draft, the Titans are likely out of reach for top quarterbacks barring a trade (Tennessee only has five more picks this year to take away in that scenario).
The Titans also plan to prioritize any financial wiggle room they have to address the most pressing concerns on the roster (think offensive line or wide receiver) before quarterback. They could have at least three new starters up front, and more talent and speed is a must around Treylon Burks all around.
Tennessee is currently $12.408 million under the 2023 salary cap, 14th in the league, according to Over The Cap.
“You have to evaluate everybody at every position every year,” Carthon said of creating the list. “We’re going to continue to do that, we’re going to continue to stack and rank our quarterbacks, whether it’s free agency or the draft, because you always have to look for options at every position every year. You can’t settle and we all know that. that the quarterback position looks like one of the positions in our league, so you have to have one.”
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Carthon said he has not spoken with Tannehill’s agent, Brian Ayrault of WME Sports, about reworking his contract. That’s worth considering because Tannehill’s cap hit for 2023 is projected to be $36.6 million, the fifth-highest among all NFL players, according to SpoTrac. If the Titans truly intend for him to be their quarterback for at least one more season, it makes sense to extend him to reduce the cap number, creating additional financial flexibility.
If the Titans cut or trade Tannehill for a pre-June 1 designation, they would save $17.8 million against the 2023 salary cap. But with the hands they’ve been dealt, keeping Tannehill makes sense, and they know what he brings to the table.
Tannehill is 36-19 as a starter at Tennessee and has helped guide the franchise to three playoff appearances in four seasons. He missed five games in 2022 with an ankle injury, including the last three, and his absence could have been the difference in a playoff berth.
“I’ve been evaluating Ryan since he came out of Texas A&M, so you know him from that space,” Carthon said. “But it’s been great getting to know the guy and how he works … Ryan is everything a quarterback is. He’s in the building every day. He does his job and he’s around the guys, so I respect that him”.
Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for three seasons (2018-20) before moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.
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