The Tennessee Titans experienced a heartbreaking postseason defeat in Saturday's divisional-round loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. The one-seed Titans miraculously secured themselves a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs despite dealing with a plethora of injuries along the way, but managed to waste those advantages away with a less-than-desirable offensive performance on Saturday. Tennessee ultimately squandered an elite defensive effort that saw their defense record nine quarterback sacks while holding Joe Burrow and an explosive Bengals offense to just 19 points. The finger may be pointed at head coach Mike Vrabel or offensive coordinator Todd Downing, who both made some questionable (but mostly reasonable) decisions along the way, or running back Derrick Henry who failed to make the desired impact in his return. Starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill was the most culpable for the defeat, however, and that was the case by a sizable landslide. Tannehill threw away an excellent performance by his defense, wide receivers, offensive line, and running game by tossing three back-breaking interceptions at extremely crucial moments in a last-second, three-point loss. Tannehill's last interception was a late read and ill-advised attempt that targeted No. 3 receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine on 3rd-and-5 while the second-year undrafted free agent was surrounded by several Bengals defenders. It awarded the Bengals with possession near midfield with under 30 seconds to play, and the Bengals swiftly got into field goal range for Evan McPherson's game-winning attempt. Titans fans quickly and mercilessly swarmed their preferred social media outlets to fantasize about making a quarterback change ahead of the 2022 campaign. Metaphysical scenarios that landed Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson in Nashville ran rampant. Tannehill's contract, a four-year, $118 million deal signed in 2020, makes this extremely unlikely and nearly impossible. Tannehill is set to earn a base salary of $29 million in 2022 while counting toward a healthy $38.6 million of the salary cap, via Spotrac. A post-June-1 release would leave Tennessee left behind to eat $38.6 million in deap cap in 2022 and another $18.8 million in dead cap in 2023, while providing no actual savings toward the cap. There's simply no scenario where Tannehill gets released. A potential trade doesn't reveal itself as much more manageable. A post-June-1 trade would leave Titans general manager Jon Robinson with just $9.6 million in dead cap for 2022 while providing $29 million in added cap space. However, that comes with $18.8 million in dead cap for 2023. Robinson would also have to embark on a search for a suitable trade partner that would possibly be willing to help Tennessee eat the dead money while also attempting to upgrade the position for 2022. It all qualifies as extremely unlikely. So the chances that Tannehill opens the 2022 campaign as Tennessee's starter are about 99% certain (nothing is ever fully guaranteed). The Titans could draft a quarterback in the mid-to-late rounds, but it would merely represent a roll of the dice that is unlikely to pay off in 2022, if at all. Robinson and Vrabel will likely focus their offseason on further upgrading the personnel around Tannehill while hoping for better injury luck in 2022. Injuries to Henry, A.J. Brown, and Julio Jones limited Tennessee's “Big Three” to less than 150 offensive snaps together throughout the regular season. It had a profound impact on Tennessee's offensive chemistry, although it’s worth noting all three players were healthy for Saturday’s loss. Outside of that, Tennessee will likely look to upgrade their tight end position while also bringing in more viable options at WR3. The likes of Geoff Swaim, Anthony Firkser, Chester Rogers, and Westbrook failed to provide the necessary depth in the face of injury to Tennessee's starring playmakers. Changes on the offensive line may be afloat as well, as the unit consistently struggled in pass protection, and the current starting five features three aging players in Taylor Lewan, Rodger Saffold, and Ben Jones. It's fair to wonder if Tannehill is capable of taking Tennessee to the next level even with an improved supporting cast in place, but the financial terms of his contract mean we are likely going to find out.
- Aug 12, 2022
- Aug 12, 2022