This year was the latest year in which quarterback Ryan Tannehill was supposed to have a breakout year. Next year will now be the next year when people will be anticipating that to happen.
The first question is whether Tannehill will even be in Miami in 2018. His salary is $17.475 million, a total that as new deals get done will be inching closer and closer to middle of the pack. Of that amount, $5.25 million becomes fully guaranteed in March. Cutting him before the partial guarantee vests would result in $4.6 million in dead money, due to the remaining installments of his signing bonus.
It’s hard to imagine the Dolphins cutting or trading him. Before that would even be a consideration, newcomer Jay Cutler would have to put together the kind of year that had been expected from Tannehill — and the Dolphins would need to be willing to pay Cutler what he’d want to return for another year.
Much of that would depend on whether another team would offer Cutler starting-level money. No team was willing to do that this year, which resulted in his retirement.
It could be that the Dolphins move forward with Tannehill in 2018, with Cutler once again on speed dial (if speed dial is still a thing) in the event that Tannehill can’t get it done. Regardless, it’s hard to imagine coach Adam Gase turning his back on Tannehill until it becomes obvious that Tannehill isn’t able to play. Future Gase quarterbacks will know how he treated Tannehill, and there’s no reason to think Gase will suddenly turn his back on a guy who was on board with the calculated, big-picture decision to choose an impaired ACL over a repaired one.
Once the ACL is repaired (and it still feels like a matter of time before that happens), Tannehill will be no different than any other quarterback with a previously torn ACL. One of them has continued over the past eight years and counting to build a resume that makes him the best quarterback of all time.