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The Tennessee Titans already made waves Thursday when they traded wide receiver A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles, but they made another eye-popping move Friday when they traded up four spots to select Liberty quarterback Malik Willis at No. 86 overall.
The Titans already have a QB1 in veteran Ryan Tannehill, and it seems he’ll keep that spot to start the year.
John Glennon @glennonsportsHuge upside for Willis, who has a cannon arm and is an outstanding runner. There are some commonly heard concerns, some about accuracy, some about hesitancy in the pocket. But he will have a year to sit, learn and improve.
Paul Kuharsky @PaulKuharskyNFLQB1 2023 #Titans https://t.co/7ZyQezeIH2
Titans general manager Jon Robinson also made it sound like the Willis pick was more about value than about looking to unseat Tannehill at this time, although he didn’t shut the door on the rookie competing for a starting job.
Paul Kuharsky @PaulKuharskyNFL#Titans talking about Willis value in third, not so much about certainty of QB of future. pic.twitter.com/S9DHb3uemN
TURRON DAVENPORT @TDavenport_NFLJon Robinson said becoming a starter is up to Malik Willis or any other player and how quickly they come in and pickup the offense. Can’t predict the future but wants all players to come in and compete. #Titans pic.twitter.com/dLVKLYYm2m
The Willis pick doesn’t mean Tannehill’s days in Tennessee will soon be over.
Plus, his contract isn’t really suitable for a trade at this time given he’s guaranteed $29 million in 2022. That contract was restructured last year to give the Titans cap room to take on wide receiver Julio Jones.
“It’s not feasible and it wasn’t feasible really before he restructured his contract to accommodate for the Julio Jones trade,” former NFL agent and salary-cap expert Joel Corry told Ben Arthur of The Tennessean in January about potentially moving Tannehill.
“There’s no good exit strategy unless you can find a trade, and I don’t think anyone even wants to take on Ryan Tannehill’s fully guaranteed $29 million base salary coming for next season.”
The question is what happens with Tannehill following the 2022 season. He’ll be 34 years old by that point with one year left on his contract after the Titans restructured his deal and added two voidable seasons in 2024 and 2025.
If the Titans want to move on and look for a trade partner, they could have some suitors. It hasn’t been uncommon of late to see teams take short-term flyers on veteran quarterbacks via trade, a la Matt Ryan and the Indianapolis Colts (two years) and Carson Wentz and the Washington Commanders (can be released after 2022 with full cap savings).
Tannehill does have a cap number of $36,600,000 for 2023 that would need to be addressed, but a team with 2023 cap room to burn looking for a solid quarterback could be interested.
As for asking prices, the Ryan transaction could be a good barometer since he’s a solid veteran signal-caller like Tannehill. Ryan was traded for a third-round draft pick, and that seems like a fair asking price for Tannehill.
The harder part is figuring out which teams would want Tannehill. It’s nothing against the quarterback, but a host of teams are linking themselves with young signal-callers right now (five went in the top 15 of the 2021 NFL draft class alone). Plus, the 2023 draft class looks loaded with Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young leading the way.
Still, there could be some possibilities.
If Wentz doesn’t work out in Washington, the Commanders could deal a Day 2 pick for Tannehill and hope he brings better fortunes.
If things sour in Arizona between Kyler Murray and the Cardinals, who are reportedly at odds over a long-term contract, then maybe Tannehill is brought in as a stopgap in 2023.
The Seahawks, whose QB future is in limbo after the Russell Wilson trade, could potentially be interested. At the very least, they have the sixth-most effective cap space in the NFL, per Over the Cap.
All in all, the Titans have been making seismic moves of late, and now they have invited more intrigue into their quarterback situation following the Willis pick.