With the top two quarterbacks in the 2012 rookie class destined to be the first two picks in the 2012 draft (barring something entirely unexpected in the next six days), the player to whom the most uncertainty and intrigue attaches for round one is Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
He could go anywhere from No. 3 (if the Vikings trade down) to No. 15 (if the Eagles take him or trade down). Seahawks G.M. John Schneider recently has said he expects Tannehill to be gone by the time Seattle exercises the 12th pick in the draft. However, there’s one specific factor that could push Tannehill out of the top 10.
Under the new CBA, a team may sign its first-round pick to a four-year contract with an option for a fifth year. The salary for the fifth year is based on a formula that hinges on whether the player is picked in the top 10 or the next 22.
For the top 10, the salary is determined by calculating the average of the 10 highest-paid players at the pick’s position in the prior season. For the next 22, the number is determined by calculating the average salary of the third-highest paid player at the position through the 25th highest paid player at the position in the prior season.
It’s a potentially huge difference, especially at the quarterback position. And, by 2016, it could be a gigantic number for Tannehill, given that the 10 highest-paid quarterbacks make considerably more money than No. 3 through No. 25 on the cap-number list.
And so, after Tannehill’s fourth season in the NFL, a team that takes him in the top 10 would have to be ready to give him elite quarterback money in year five, regardless of whether he’s playing at an elite level. Complicating matters is the possibility that Tannehill, a converted receiver, will need a year or two on the bench before being ready to play, giving a top-10 team even less time to assess whether Tannehill deserves top-10 quarterback money for 2016.
This year, the Chiefs hold the No. 11 selection in round one, and G.M. Scott Pioli recently pointed out the value that comes from the shift in the fifth-year calculation that applies at that spot. I also addressed the situation during Friday’s PFT Live, and I misspoke regarding the precise difference between the top 10 picks and the next 22. I incorrectly said that the top 10 players get the franchise tender under the fifth-year option. It’s actually the transition number.
Tannehill also appeared on PFT Live today. And I didn’t get into these nuances with him; it wouldn’t be good for the guest to fall asleep during the interview.
Still, it’s an important factor that could cause a team in the top 10 to ultimately pass on Tannehill. If a team in the top 10 still takes him, that team is buying itself a potentially significant dilemma for the 2016 season.