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Ryan Tannehill: Why he’s Ran Carthon’s first mistake with the Tennessee Titans

New Tennessee Titans general manager Ran Carthon spoke to reporters from the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Tuesday.

One of the obvious focal points was the future of longtime starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. It has long been expected that Tennessee would move on from Tannehill and his bloated contract, finding an external option to replace him under center.

That now doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Carthon bluntly declared on Tuesday that Tannehill is under contract and will be a member of the Titans moving forward.

“Ryan is under contract. I just want to speak freely for a moment, I know everybody wants to make a big deal out of the quarterback position and whether he will or won’t be here. But you guys just have to accept the fact that Ryan is under contract for us and right now he is a Titan and he will be a Titan.”

Tennessee Titans general manager Ran Carthon on Ryan Tannehill

The Titans are fresh off a 2022 season in which they lost their final seven games. The 34-year-old Tannehill is seemingly a shell of his former self. He did absolutely nothing to up the performance of Tennessee’s 28th-ranked scoring offense.

Despite Tennessee’s struggles on offense under defensive-minded head coach Mike Vrabel, the only real change we’re going to see this offseason is at offensive coordinator. That’s a real thing?

Speaking of that, new Titans play-caller Tim Kelly also addressed the media in Indianapolis on Tuesday. He spoke glowingly of Tannehill, too.

Related: Top 2023 NFL free agents

Tennessee Titans are making a mistake with Ryan Tannehill

tennessee titans ryan tannehill
George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

Let’s look at it from a logical perspective. Was Tennessee’s offense with Tannehill running the ship the past two seasons playoff-caliber? The answer to this question is a resounding no.

Despite boasting two-time NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry (for now), Tennessee has not finished better than 15th in scoring over the past two seasons. Tannehill’s own regression has been eye-opening.

YearsComp%YardsTDINTQB rating
Ryan Tannehill stats

That’s pretty stunning stuff right there. Realistically, there’s several options set to hit NFL free agency that would be upgrades over the iteration of Tannehill we’ve seen the past two seasons. Jimmy Garoppolo and Derek Carr come to mind first.

Related: Tennessee Titans’ Ryan Tannehill and the NFL’s highest-paid QBs

The finances of the Tennessee Titans retaining Ryan Tannehill

First off, the Titans have been in cost-cutting mode with Ran Carthon calling the shots for the first time in his career. That recently included releasing Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan.

It seems that retaining Tannehill on a restructure would spit in the face of this philosophy. He’s slated to count a whopping $36.6 million against the 2023 NFL salary cap. We already know that this won’t be the number once Week 1 comes calling.

Tennessee could save $17.2 million against the cap by restructuring Tannehill’s contract. Unfortunately, that would also link him to Nashville beyond the 2023 season. Right now, he’s slated to become a free agent next March. A restructure would only kick Tennessee’s quarterback situation down the road further.

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On a related note, designating Tannehill a post-June 1 cut would save the Titans a whopping $27 million against the cap in 2023 with no future commitment.

As of publication of this article, Tennessee had less than $10 million to spend under the salary cap. This comes after the team already did a bulk of its heavy lifting in releasing Lewan, Robert Woods and Zach Cunningham. In short, Carthon and Co. are not going to be big-time players in free agency.

Related: Ideal trade scenarios for Tennessee Titans star Derrick Henry

Tennessee Titans QB situation is a hot mess

tennessee titans general manager ran carthon
George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

This leads us to our final point. In addition to Ryan Tannehill, the Titans boast youngster Malik Willis at quarterback. A third-round pick from Liberty in the 2022 NFL Draft, Willis was in over his head while filling in for an injured Tannehill last season.

The small-school product completed less than 51% of his passes for 276 passing yards with zero touchdowns and three interceptions in three starts. He was so bad that the Titans opted to run veteran journeyman Josh Dobbs out there with the season on the line. Dobbs had literally been picked up off waivers from the Detroit Lions less than a week before making his first start for the Titans.

Carthon has a long leash after coming over from the San Francisco 49ers. Why is he so hellbent on running back the same disastrous quarterback group we saw a season ago?

The much more viable option would be to simply blow this thing up. Tennessee is not going to be contending for anything with Ryan Tannehill under center. It makes more sense to simply trade Derrick Henry and start anew.

That should include considering a trade up from the 11th spot in the 2023 NFL Draft to acquire a viable quarterback of the future. Despite some questions about the draft class at quarterback, the likes of C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young, Will Levis or Anthony Richardson would at least give the Tennessee Titans a blueprint for the future.

Alas, that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. And it will be the first major mistake of Ran Carthon’s tenure in Nashville.