San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the talk of the NFL this week after signing a six-year, $110 million extension. With just 23 career starts, the 49ers are making a significant investment that Kaepernick is their franchise quarterback and long-term solution.
But what does this mean for Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill? Kaepernick (2011) was drafted one year ahead of Tannehill (2012), which means Miami and other teams with young starting quarterbacks will be “on the clock” soon.
Via the collective bargaining agreement, the Dolphins aren’t allowed to negotiate a contract extension with Tannehill until next year. Tannehill and other Class of 2012 quarterbacks such as Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson all will be potential targets for sizable quarterback extensions next offseason. Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals, a quarterback from Kaepernick's 2011 class, is trying to get paid now.
But before it's Tannehill's turn, he still has a lot to prove this year. He is 15-17 in his first two seasons. Tannehill has never made the playoffs and has a career quarterback rating of 79.1. Those are not franchise quarterback numbers.
Is Tannehill worth a $100 million contract? So far the evidence suggests the answer is no. But with the increased going rate for starting quarterbacks, who knows what will happen if Tannehill puts up big numbers and leads Miami to the playoffs this season?
Non-elite quarterbacks such as Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler and Joe Flacco have all surpassed the $100 million mark. How far away is Tannehill from Stafford, for example, if Tannehill leads Miami to the playoffs? In terms of ability, most consider Tannehill at least on par with Dalton, who also could reach the $100-million mark.
The good news for the Dolphins is they have at least a year – maybe two – before they even consider going to the negotiating table with Tannehill. The rookie-wage scale has helped Miami keep Tannehill on a team-friendly contract for the past three seasons. Miami has been free to use the cap space on other positions.
But the time will come soon for the Dolphins to make a decision on Tannehill. Will Miami hand out a big-money extension or go in another direction? That answer will be dictated by Tannehill’s play this season.