Saturday, June 3 2023

INDIANAPOLIS — The Tennessee Titans might already be banking on Ryan Tannehill being their starting quarterback for 2023, even if they won’t say it outright. 

At his press conference Tuesday at the annual NFL Scouting Combine, new general manager Ran Carthon said, in part, that he’s “excited about moving forward” with the veteran signal-caller and that “right now, he is a Titan and he will be a Titan.” 

Prefacing a commitment to a player with “right now” can be an indication that a team is exploring all options with the individual, but Carthon’s assertion at the end of the statement — “he will be a Titan” — is telling that the Titans may be leaning toward keeping Tannehill in Nashville. 

“He’s under contract. I’m excited about moving forward with him,” Carthon said. “I know everybody wants to make a big deal of the quarterback position and whether he will or won’t be here, but you guys just have to accept the fact that Ryan is under contract for us. Right now, he is a Titan and he will be a Titan.”


There’s a strong argument for Tennessee to retain Tannehill, who’s entering the last year of his contract. The Titans don’t have an obvious successor on their roster — 2022 third-round pick Malik Willis struggled last season in eight appearances, including three starts. The former Liberty star is still very raw. And with the No. 11 pick in this year’s draft, the Titans are likely out of range for the top quarterbacks, barring a trade up (Tennessee has just five other selections this year to pull from in that scenario). 

The Titans also figure to prioritize any financial wiggle room they have to address more pressing concerns on the roster — think offensive line or wide receiver — before quarterback. They could have at least three new starters upfront, and more talent and speed is a must around Treylon Burks at wideout. 

Tennessee is currently $12.408 million under the 2023 salary cap, 14th in the league, according to Over The Cap. 

“You have to evaluate everybody at every position every year,” Carthon said of roster building. “We’ll continue to do that, we’ll continue to stack and rank our quarterbacks — whether it’s free agency or the draft because you always have to look for options at every position every year. You can’t settle and we all know that the quarterback position is seen as one of the positions in our league so you have to have one.”

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Nick Wright, Chris Broussard, Kevin Wildes and Greg Jennings reveal the way too-early edition of Nick’s NFL Tiers featuring all 32 NFL franchises.

Carthon said he has not talked with Tannehill’s agent, Brian Ayrault of WME Sports, about re-working his contract. That bears watching because Tannehill’s cap hit for 2023 is scheduled to be $36.6 million, the fifth-highest among all NFL players, according to SpoTrac. If the Titans do indeed intend for him to be their quarterback for at least one more season, it makes sense to extend him to lower the cap number — creating additional financial flexibility. 

If the Titans cut or traded Tannehill with a pre-June 1 designation, it would save $17.8 million against the 2023 salary cap. But with the hands they’ve been dealt, keeping Tannehill makes sense — and they know what he brings to the table. 

Tannehill is 36-19 as a starter in Tennessee and has helped guide the franchise to three playoff appearances in four seasons. He missed five games in 2022 due to an ankle injury, including the last three, and his absence could’ve been the difference in a playoff berth. 

“I’ve been evaluating Ryan since he got out of Texas A&M, so you kind of know him from that space,” Carthon said. “But it’s been cool to get to know the dude and how he works. … Ryan is everything that a quarterback is. He’s in the building every day. He’s doing his work and he’s around the guys, so I respect that about him.”

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.

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