Regardless of how you feel about Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the fact is this: Tannehill will be the Dolphins’ starting quarterback in 2014.
There have been many ups and downs during Tannehill’s first two years with the Dolphins. The positives have been his ability to perform in the clutch, ranking second in the NFL in 2013 with four comeback victories. His ability to remain composed under a collapsing pocket and lackluster supporting cast is to be admired. However, there are downs such as Tannehill’s penchant of taking sacks instead of getting rid of the ball, combined with his disastrous end to the 2013 season. With the Dolphins needing just one win versus two NFL teams that were below .500 in the final two games at the time Miami played each, Tannehill’s stats were as follows: 43 percent completion rate, one touchdown, three interceptions and a 43.8 quarterback rating.
Despite neutral reviews on Tannehill from Dolphins fans, he will be a veteran quarterback entering his third season next year, which means there is very little reason for a veteran backup quarterback such as Matt Moore. The backup QB was a big priority for the Dolphins to re-sign as a free agent last year, considering that Tannehill was an unproven quarterback coming off of a 12-touchdown, 17-interception season. Now, however, Tannehill has shown he can be a capable starting quarterback in the league. The issue of keeping Moore on the team wouldn’t be a problem if the veteran quarterback’s cap number wasn’t so high. Moore’s cap hit for 2014 is $5.5 million despite being a backup. That cap hit means Moore will be the 21st-highest paid quarterback in the league next season. For comparison’s sake, Tannehill’s cap hit is $3.5 million in 2014.
Moore’s prorated bonus is $1.5 million, which means his base salary is $4 million. If Moore and the Dolphins don’t restructure his contract this offseason, the quarterback will be one of the highest paid players on the team. At the current moment, Moore is the sixth-highest paid Dolphin. If the Dolphins release Moore, they will save themselves $4 million and will only have $1.5 million in dead money.
Because Tannehill is now a veteran, the Dolphins can afford to draft a middle-round quarterback such as Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron and develop him behind Tannehill. In this scenario, Moore can be released or traded. If the Dolphins are really concerned with their backup QB situation in the event that Moore is released or traded, they can sign a veteran free agent to the veteran’s minimum while still developing a player such as McCarron on the bench.
It would be wise for the Dolphins to restructure Moore’s contract this offseason. The more likely scenario is they let the contract stand because Moore is well-liked in the organization and the Dolphins won’t lack cap space in the offseason — the team will have $32 million to spend.