Tannehill and Company
Firstly Phinfans and writers alike need to realize that there signal caller for the near future is already in place. I am defining the near future as if it ended in 2015 when Tannehill’s his rookie contract expires (barring the 2016 option which I will discuss later), but I would be shocked if we don’t see #17 under center in 5 years. This is because Tannehill is exactly the guy Miami needs under center. We can all name the seventeen starting quarterbacks to walk through the turnstile in Miami since number 13 hung them up, but no one can honestly say that Tannehill isn’t the most talented of the bunch. Tannehill has far and away the most arm talent of the motley crew, the next closest was Daunte Culpepper who was simply a shell of himself when he wore the aqua and orange. Along with a special arm, Tannehill brings youth, athleticism, and a knack for the 2 min drill that just makes it seem like he really could end up being special.
Sure Tannehill didn’t tear it up in his first two years, but remember this guy was running routes for half of his college career. Also, there weren’t many qualms with his production through his first 14 games last year. Well no one was complaining besides Warren Sapp who thought that the sophomore quarterback would have broken Dan Marino’s passing mark of 5,084 yards in 2013.
In year two Tannehill was sacked a league worst and franchise record 58 times. And yes Tannehill had sacks that were on him, but he didn’t have ten of them and would have still led the league if he got the ball out slightly quicker. Despite spending so much time under duress Tannehill’s passer rating, touchdown to inception ratio, completion percentage and yards-per-attempt and yards-per-game all went up from his year one numbers. And he didn’t perform poorly as a rookie; he was perhaps the second best rookie in 2012 and at the worst the third in a loaded class. In fact all of his 2013 numbers were better than Joe Flacco’s, a former Super Bowl MVP and the third highest paid quarterback in the NFL, and despite this some are calling for his job.
Tannehill was an above average quarterback despite not having a lot to work with last year. He had the worst line in football after losing a franchise left tackle to free agency, a pro-bowl guard with personal issues, and a very mediocre right tackle who was searching for a way out of the league. This lack of a front hampered the effectiveness of the run game, and an offensive coordinator who ran it as much as I do in Madden didn’t help either. Tannehill did a fine job in the passing game, but he was forced to do so without his starting tight end and two slot receivers who were lost to knee injuries. Also, his top target spent most of year trying to remember that he did in fact have hands. If Wallace finally learns to catch the ball with his hands then the league needs to watch out, but until then his inability to high point the ball and use his body to create a target rather than receive the ball will keep him from being the elite receiver that he is in his head. And until he makes himself into a real number one he’s not helping Tannehill. With this said, Tannehill needs to get better finding the speedster on the deep ball since they left 10 touchdowns on the board in 2013 and that’s if you account for Wallace dropping a few.
I expect Tannehill to fix his deep ball problem in 2014 as time should help the duo mesh and a new offensive coordinator should help the rest of his game. Tannehill has spent his entire college and pro-career thus far under the tutelage of Mike Sherman and not to take anything away from Sherman, but its time for someone else to have Tannehill’s ear and I am confident that Bill Lazor will do great things with the third year quarterback. Lazor was able to coach Nick Foles, that’s right Nick Foles to the highest QBR in the league last year. Just wait and see what he can do with a more talented and less polished project.
As far everyone else not named Tannehill there is enough there to survive, but I expect a change to be coming very soon. The organization has shown that they are high on Pat Delvin as a project, but no one knows when he’s going to be ready to compete, as he has never even made a run at number 2 on the depth chart. Aside from Delvin they have another untested prospect in Jordan Rodgers. I really like the idea of Rodgers on the roster. Rodgers doesn’t have the arm talent that his brother has, but he’s no slouch and he’s a bit more athletic than his older brother. Matt Moore would be the unquestioned back up if he was on the roster week 1, but I don’t expect to see him holding a clipboard in aqua and orange.
Salaries and Cap
Part of the reason why the Dolphins have had so much cap room to play with the last two years is because they have such a cheap quarterback. Tannehill’s 2014 base salary will only be $1.541 million. A payday is in his future though and Tannehill critics are already bringing it up. Under the collective bargaining agreement a team may sign its first-round pick to a four-year contract with a team option for a fifth year. The fifth year salary for a top 10 pick is determined by calculating the average of the 10 highest-paid players at the player’s position in the prior season. So if the Dolphins were to pick up the team option for 2016 Tannehill, they might be paying him a hefty bounty given that the 10 highest-paid quarterbacks make around a million for every Sunday in the Fall that they decided to throw the ball around the yard. (Tannehill would be looking at making a little over $15 million for 2016 under the option).
The better option for the Phins might be to forego the team option, and strike a long term deal with Ryan that gives him security and gives the Phins the quarterback they once thought was invaluable at a “discount rate.” But I wouldn’t see a deal being struck until after this season at the earliest, so his contract is currently a non-issue. Matt Moore’s contract on the other hand is an issue. With a $4 million base, Moore is due to be paid more than players like Branden Albert, and Brent Grimes and he isn’t worth that to the Dolphins going forward as he’s coming off a big year where he was 2 for 6 with 2 picks. Sure he is an okay backup, but he’s an expensive okay backup who is going to be in an unfamiliar offense. Look for the Dolphins to find a replacement #2 with great upside in the draft and for them to cut ties with Moore soon after.
This brings us to an interesting question: Where should Miami draft a quarterback in this year’s draft? And who should they draft?
It would be impractical for the Dolphins to take a quarterback in the first or second round with so many other holes to fill. Even the third round seems like a reach, unless of course they are able to trade back for picks earlier on or, the strong-armed Derrick Carr falls into their laps. This is a deep year for rookie quarterbacks however, so there will be talent still on the board in the fourth. We can look at some of that talent now.
Arron Murray, Georgia (3rd-5th Round)
Murray would be my favorite mid-round pick. Yes Murray lacks prototypical size, and he is coming off of a ACL tear but, but he has a strong arm and even though he fires from a variety of arm slots he still has good accuracy. Murray was always a top talent and I think that learning under Lazor could do him well.
Zach Mettenberger, LSU (3rd-5th Round)
Mettenberger finished his career strong after a very rocky start. He has good downfield vision and a strong arm that allows him to make all the throws. Since he is coming off of an injury that might limit his already limited mobility in the future, and since he has had character issues in the past, I think the Phins will pass, but he is certainly on the radar if he falls.
Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech (4th-6th Round)
As a 6’6’’ and 248 athlete who can run a 4.5 Thomas has serious potential. He is a physical runner with a strong arm that allows him to fire frozen ropes effortlessly. He struggles with accuracy, and he’s really still learning the position as he came to college as a tight end but his upside is huge. Someone’s going to take the gamble on this “created player” and I wouldn’t mind if it was the Dolphins with Tannehill already in place.
Stephen Morris, Miami (6th-7th Round)
Morris is a great athlete with a golden arm who has just never put it together. He has struggled with his ability to read defenses, and his ability to recognize the blitz. But even with these issues and his tendency to struggle with his accuracy/decision making at times, he has the tools and the NFL likes guys that look good in shorts and have “potential.”
Tajh Boyd, Clemson (6th-7th Round)
Boyd is a shorter quarterback that has a slight wind-up, but with a solid arm and good touch. The two knocks on him are that he was (1) never as good as he should have been; (2) that he played with play making receivers which made him look good. Still a talent who is worth a look in a late round.