Tennessee’s disappointing finish to the 2022 season cannot be explained without also including Ryan Tannehill’s rough year.
Tannehill played in 12 games before an ankle injury ended his season, and the fact he even appeared in a dozen contests was an achievement, considering he’d suffered prior injuries that forced him out of action. Without their veteran passer, Tennessee fell toward the bottom of the league in passing, finishing 30th in yards per game.
Tannehill’s absences, Tennessee’s struggles and the existence of 2022 third-round pick Malik Willis have prompted many to wonder whether the veteran quarterback’s time with the Titans is nearing an end. New general manager Ran Carthon pushed back against this notion Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“Ryan is under contract,” Carthon said. “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. Right now, he’s a Titan and he will be a Titan.”
Tannehill’s contract with the Titans runs through the conclusion of the 2023 season, but if Tennessee decided to move on from him, it could save as much as $27 million with a post-June 1 release designation. The Titans currently have roughly $12 million in effective space to work with prior to the start of free agency, which means they don’t necessarily need to search for relief.
Tannehill’s future largely depends on where the Titans see themselves entering 2023. Willis didn’t do much to inspire confidence he can take over starting duties and lead the Titans to success, but Tannehill wasn’t great, either, finishing with 2,536 passing yards and a 13:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. A year after throwing away the Titans’ hopes of competing for a Super Bowl, Tannehill didn’t provide a reason to believe brighter days are ahead.
The Titans could pull the plug on him, save a chunk of cap and move forward with Willis. If they’re not confident in Willis, though, they could run it back with Tannehill for one more year and accept the results, which aren’t incredibly promising after losing the division to the upstart Jaguars, but are still better than they’d be with an inexperienced Willis.
Much of this has a similar feel to how Atlanta’s power duo of coach Arthur Smith and GM Terry Fontenot approached the combine a year ago, in which they declined to commit to Matt Ryan as the team’s starter before trading him to Indianapolis. Carthon was stronger in his responses regarding Tannehill, but with the inclusion of “right now” in his reply, one can’t help but wonder if the Titans are leaving open the possibility of finding another candidate to play quarterback.
Right now, Tannehill remains with the Titans, where he stands as their best option. We’ll see if the same can be said about him this summer.