Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, February 11, 2022

Replacing Tannehill won’t be easy

And, no, Aaron Rodgers isn’t the answer

The Titans might well look for a Ryan Tannehill replacement this offseason, but he would come via the draft. And it’s not a great quarterback class. - Photo by Wade Payne | AP

The offseason has already begun for the Tennessee Titans, and with it comes plenty of questions that must be answered in the coming months.

One that won’t have to be answered concerns the quarterback position. General manager Jon Robinson, head coach Mike Vrabel and anyone who has any authority on the matter has said that Ryan Tannehill will be the Titans quarterback in 2022.

Tannehill’s 2021 season ended with a thud – three interceptions against Cincinnati in the playoffs, including picks on his first and last passes of the game.

But his $29 million base salary for next year makes him virtually guaranteed to be a Titan for next year. Cutting him would call for a cap hit of $38 million, which the Titans most certainly cannot afford.

So, for those getting their hopes up regarding a report of Aaron Rodgers looking to build a house in Middle Tennessee, it’s more likely he’s doing that to avoid the state income taxes of where he lives now than he is to don a Titans jersey next year.

That said, the Titans do have to start thinking about life beyond Tannehill at quarterback. Tannehill will be 34 when training camp opens and, even if he bounces back to his 2019-20 level of play, the time to start planning for the future at the position might be sooner rather than later. It would certainly be wise of Robinson and Vrabel to have a plan in place for when Tannehill is no longer under center.

With that in mind, the 2022 quarterback class is said to be the weakest in several years. There does not appear to be a quarterback worthy of the No. 1 overall pick. In fact, many draft handicappers say there might only be a couple of quarterbacks worthy of going in the first round.

Kenny Pickett of Pittsburgh and Matt Corral of Ole Miss look like they are the head of this quarterback draft. All the others, well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

And as the beholder of the Titans’ fortunes, Robinson probably has his eyes on a lot of potential project quarterbacks that might be available in the middle rounds with a second or even third-day pick.

Could Malik Willis, Carson Strong, Desmond Ritter or Sam Howard be worth a gamble with one of the Titans’ picks in the hopes that a serviceable quarterback might emerge and be ready to play in say 2024?

Even that appears to be a big risk, not just because making the jump from college to the pros is such a crapshoot at quarterback.

The simple practicality comes into play for the Titans this spring. Tennessee has just five picks in the 2022 draft, having traded away their second-rounder for Julio Jones and also missing a seventh-round pick from a previous transaction.

The Titans likely have to move some money around and make some hard cap decisions since they have several holes to fill. A developmental quarterback might be more of a luxury than Robinson can afford when he begins to address such things as tight end, the offensive line and more.

Still, there is a school of thought that says draft a quarterback nearly every year, whenever possible, in hopes that one will work out. The Green Bay Packers used to use that philosophy and then turned those quarterbacks that developed into additional draft capital down the line. When Brett Favre was in his prime, he had backups like Matt Hasselbeck and Mark Brunell who turned out to be quality starters elsewhere.

The Titans, of course, have not had that kind of luck. They still have not drafted a true franchise quarterback since Steve McNair 27 years ago. In that time, they spent first-round picks on Vince Young, Jake Locker and Marcus Mariota with decidedly mixed results. Mariota’s washout is the reason the Titans acquired Tannehill, who going into his fourth year as the starter is the team’s longest-tenured starter since McNair.

So, what about middle or late-round quarterback projects? Let’s just say that Zach Mettenberger was by far the most productive of any of the Titans’ developmental quarterbacks when compared to Rusty Smith, Luke Falk and Cole McDonald.

In a year in which the Titans need to consider the future, as well as their present window of opportunity, whether to take a plunge on a quarterback bears watching as the draft draws closer in the coming weeks.

Terry McCormick publishes TitanInsider.com and appears 2-4 p.m. weekdays on the George Plaster Show on WNSR-AM 560/95.9 FM.