Even though their season ended on a low note, it’s hard to think of the 2019 Tennessee Titans as anything other than a massive success. After coming out of the gate slow, the team rallied to a 9-7 finish and made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game. While several guys played their best football down the stretch, this run wouldn’t have been possible without Ryan Tannehill. The Titans acquired Tannehill for essentially nothing prior to the season, but he’s set to break the bank in 2020. Should the Titans bring back the former Dolphin, and how much of a commitment should they make to Tannehill?
Tennessee Titans Free Agent Profile: Ryan Tannehill
Taking over for an ineffective Marcus Mariota, Tannehill instilled some life into a dead offense and played like one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Tannehill made 10 regular season starts for the Titans, recording 2,598 passing yards for 22 touchdowns and five interceptions. When extrapolated to a full 16-game sample, Tannehill was on pace for 4,157 yards, 35 touchdowns, eight interceptions, and a league-leading 117.5 passer rating.
Tannehill dominated in the traditional statistics, and the advanced numbers tell a similar story. According to Football Outsiders, Tannehill ended the year ranked 9th in DYAR, 5th in DVOA, and 9th in QBR. He excelled at completing difficult passes, as his 8% completion percentage above expectation led the league. For those unfamiliar with the metric, CPOE essentially measures the likelihood of a completion based on depth of target and how close opposing defenders are to the receiver. All of this combined to make Tannehill the fourth-best passer in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.
Additionally, Tannehill’s presence helped improve the run game. With Mariota under center, Derrick Henry averaged just 3.68 yards-per-carry. With Tannehill, that number jumped to 5.92, not including the playoffs. Henry took over in the playoffs, and Tannehill was largely along for the ride. However, without Tannehill, the Titans would have never made it to the postseason in the first place.
Ryan Tannehill in 2020
Tannehill was amazing in 2019, but asking him to repeat that performance is asking for a lot. Tannehill spent six years as the primary starter for the Miami Dolphins and never had a season like this. Getting away from Adam Gase can explain some of this success, but some form of regression to the mean should be expected.
That said, Tannehill still has what it takes to be an average to above-average starter. The Dolphins never put Tannehill in the best position to succeed, as their franchise was synonymous with poor decisions and subpar roster construction. The Titans, conversely, appear to have a good thing going with their offense. The offensive line came out of the gate slow but meshed into one of the best units in football. From a skill position standpoint, A.J. Brown appears to be an absolute stud in the making. Adam Humphries, Corey Davis, and Jonnu Smith are still under contract, and all three have shown some flashes of their potential. Even if Henry leaves in free agency, the Titans should bring back the vast majority of their passing offense in 2020.
The franchise tag was invented for players like Tannehill. Tannehill looked like a stud in 2019, but there’s a large sample of uninspiring play from the quarterback. Bringing Tannehill back on a one-year deal makes sense for both sides. If Tannehill repeats his 2019 success, then the Titans should sign him to a long-term deal.
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