Jeff Ireland spoke to the media this morning following the teams AM practice. Obviously the hot topic was the contract situation of Ryan Tannehill and why exactly, he is not in camp. Ireland simply said, “Because there is no deal”. The root of the issue is not money, at least not contractually speaking. Instead the root of the issue is money that would be paid to Tannehill if he wasn’t with the team and was with someone else.
It’s called off-set language and works like this. If the Dolphins decide to Tannehill in the fourth year of the contract, the Dolphins would have to pay him the remaining balance on his deal. If Tannehill signs with another team, the Dolphins would either be on the hook for the difference between the two deals or off the hook if Tannehill’s new deal is equal to or more than the money owed by the Dolphins. Without that language in the contract they are negotiating now, Tannehill would be paid what the Dolphins owed him plus what the other team gives him. In other words he is getting paid twice.
Ryan Tannehill is one of only three first round picks still not signed. Off-set language is a part of the other negotiations as well. Ahead of Tannehill, no other first rounder has signed a deal with the off-set language in the deal, however, behind Tannehill, several teams have including KC’s deal with Dontari’ Poe. For the Dolphins it’s a stand they are willing to take and almost have to take.
The Dolphins chief salary cap officer is named Dawn Aponte who worked in the NFL’s league offices and she has repeatedly encouraged teams not to give in on the issue. Backing down now could be viewed as a weakness but would definitely be something the team could not go back on with future first round picks. Once they put out there they are willing to back off the demand, there is no turning around.
For now, the language of a deal is not what fans are concerned about. Instead, they wonder how the Dolphins can allow their future QB to stand in the parking lot instead of on the field. At first glance it’s easy to believe that the Dolphins are doing more harm than good to the team. The question here really is this. Was Ryan Tannehill ever a legit contender for the starting QB position? Likely not.
Unlike other QB’s taken in the early rounds of the draft, specifically Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin, III, the Dolphins are not pressed to starting a rookie. Tannehill is the future of the franchise and not the present like Luck and RGIII are to their respective teams. The Dolphins can afford to stand firmer on an issue they believe strongly in.
On the field, Matt Moore ran first team reps out of the gate and David Garrard will in time get his turn with the starters as well. With the absence of Tannehill, the Dolphins are getting a stronger look at both QB’s with the starting reps and with the 2nd team reps, and practice squad player Pat Devlin is getting more work in as well. This isn’t to say that the Dolphins are better off without Tannehill there, they are not, but as a team they are not behind the proverbial 8-ball waiting on an impact player to make his appearance.
Obviously you want all your players on the field from the start and there could be a negative message being sent to the rest of the team by a player who is supposed to become the team leader. Players however realize far more than the media and the fan-base that there is a business side of the NFL and taking care of that side of the game is usually priority number one.
Last year for what it’s worth, the Dolphins were dealt a two day hold-out by then rookie center Mike Pouncey and it could easily be argued that Pouncey’s absence was more detrimental to the team than what this years stand-off is. Either way the deal will get done. Ryan Tannehill may blink or the Dolphins may blink. But sooner rather than later, Ryan Tannehill will be joining his team in the steamy Florida sunshine. So relax and enjoy the fact that the players who will be seeing time on the field early in the season are all at practice, under contract, and practicing.