The way the season ended for the Tennessee Titans is hard to swallow. Despite the defense racking up nine sacks, enough to tie an NFL playoff record, Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry, and Co. will be watching the Super Bowl from home.
It’s hard to argue their success, earning the top seed in the AFC is no joke, and they did so despite Tannehill being without Henry, A.J. Brown, and Julio Jones for 89.1% of his dropbacks.
But once they were in the playoffs, their first test with the skilled quartet back on the field, Tannehill threw three interceptions in a game they eventually lost by just three points. Without his star running back and his top two receivers for a combined total of 20 games, Tannehill threw a career-high 14 interceptions and had his second-lowest TD%. Any way you look at it, the 33-year old signal-caller had a down year.
While most Titans fans likely aren’t ready to show their QB of the past three seasons the door, if the franchise feels they can improve over Tannehill this offseason, they likely won’t hesitate to do so. Here are five different Tennessee Titans starting quarterback options for the 2022 season.
Tennessee Titans practice patience with Malik Willis
The first option on our Tennessee Titans 2022 QB list likely wouldn’t replace Tannehill altogether. This would be more of a draft and develop situation, unless Tannehill got injured or got off to a really rough start.
Liberty QB Malik Willis is widely expected to be a first-round pick in April’s NFL Draft. He’s one of the best dual-threat prospects in the draft class. Within just a few throws, one can see the zip Willis has on his passes, and his ability to throw on the run is second to none.
Selecting 26th might be a bit too low, meaning general manager Jon Robinson might have to jump up to No. 17, just ahead of the Saints to get an opportunity to draft Willis. It’s one of those picks that come with a lot of risk, but the potential upside is hard to ignore.
Some might say Willis has the highest ceiling of all the draft-eligible quarterbacks from the 2022 class. He might not be ready play right away, but that gives Tannehill another season to see how far he can take the Titans, hopefully with a healthier roster.
Matt Ryan provides a steady presence
On the surface, Matt Ryan may not make a lot of sense in Tennessee. The Titans already have an aging QB, and Ryan has less mobility, less juice in his arm than Tannehill has. Another issue with bringing Matty Ice to Nashville is that he likely won’t help this team score more near the red zone, however with Derrick Henry in tow, the Falcons might prefer Ryan’s superior ball placement skills over Tannehill’s athleticism.
Ryan has more than proven his worth as a passer and would likely do a better job of taking care of the football than Tannehill generally does.
Then, we get to the bloated contracts of each player. Neither team could likely afford to move off from their quarterbacks this season, unless they’re willing to take a step back. Coming off the No. 1 seed, the Titans are only looking forward.
- Ryan Tannehill contract (2022): $38.6 million cap hit, $28.4 million dead money if traded, $10.2 million in savings
- Matt Ryan contract (2022): $48.6 million cap hit, $40.5 million dead money if traded, $8.1 million in savings
As the numbers show, both teams would be massively impacting their cap simply by trading their starting QB. The Falcons likely don’t have much interest in Tannehill other than to be a bridge quarterback for whoever takes over after Matty Ice. Ditto for the Titans, they’re likely better off rolling with Tannehill than paying even more for a declining Ryan, even if he’s been to a Super Bowl.
Titans trade for Kirk Cousins
Trading for Kirk Cousins is mildly more intriguing, but not by much. Cousins can make all the throws, he’ll take more chances, likely increasing Tennessee’s points per game while boosting their passing attack.
He won’t offer that extra facet, being able to manipulate the defense using his athleticism as Tannehill does, but he’s much more prolific passer. Tannehill’s only ever had two seasons over 4,000 passing yards, compared to Cousins only having one season below the mark.
Some could say Cousins benefits from the superb talent the Vikings provide him with, Justin Jefferson is very good, but he also has proven adept at operating a run-heavy approach while still being able to take over the game through the air at times.
As far as their win-loss records, well Tannehill had a career 42-46 record before heading to the Tennessee Titans where he’s enjoyed a 30-13 record. Could Cousins experience similar success when paired with Henry, Brown and Jones? The last notable bit, offensive coordinator Todd Downing was in Minnesota in 2018, the first year Cousins became a Viking, which already gives them a connection.
Jimmy Garoppolo goes to Nashville
The only quarterback on this list to make the playoffs this season, Jimmy Garoppolo has surpassed all expectations for the 49ers. Yet, he’s still expected to be traded this offseason as the organization hands the keys to Trey Lance.
There are several reasons why Jimmy G could be an attractive trade target to the Titans. Not only has he also been to a Super Bowl, he’s three years younger than Tannehill, has the potential to be more affordable, and has a pristine regular season record at 33-14.
Going to Garoppolo would again make the offense less diverse, taking away the ability to run RPOs where the QB actually keeps it, but the numbers suggest he’d be a more accurate thrower than Tannehill has been.
- Ryan Tannehill stats (2021): Bad throw % – 15.9%, On-target throws – 81.5%
- Jimmy Garoppolo stats (2021): Bad throw % – 12.9%, On-target throws – 78.9%
Ultimately the potential cap savings likely aren’t worth swinging a trade, shaking up the locker room for what could be a lateral move. Garoppolo is set to earn a base salary of $24.2 million and is expected to want a contract extension when traded. The Tennessee Titans are probably better positioned with Tannehill for another year.
Tennessee Titans go for the win with Russell Wilson
Finally, we get to a quarterback who’s a definite improvement over Ryan Tannehill. If Russell Wilson truly wants out this offseason, suddenly we’ll see a few teams who “weren’t planning to make a change” possibly change their minds. First, they need to work the backchannels, gauging how interested Russ might be to play for their franchise.
And really, who woudn’t be interested in adding a Super Bowl champ and seven-time Pro Bowl QB to their lineup?
Some teams may try and pry Wilson away, hoping his trade value has been impacted by his mallet finger surgery which effected his play throughout the year, but Russ put up 51 points in Week 17, throwing four touchdowns. He’s still as valuable as ever, even as a 33-year old QB. Which coincidentally is the same age of Tannehill. If you think Russ is slipping, where does that put Tannehill?
I’ll take the quarterback with the winning pedigree dating all the way back to high school in Wilson. It’s true, he may be losing a step, but Wilson is still an athlete who can move the chains with his legs just fine, better than most quarterbacks.
One thing Russ does not do, is turn the ball over. He lost one fumble all year and only threw six interceptions across 14 starts. Tannehill lost four fumbles and threw 17 interceptions across 18 starts.
Wilson could bring strong leadership, plenty of experience in the big game, and a bigger arm than Tannehill offers, while still offering some scrambling abilty. If there’s one quarterback the Titans might be interested in if he becomes available this offseason, it’s likely Russell Wilson. Actually pulling off such a trade is an entirely different story for a team with limited draft capital.