The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could grab a veteran starting quarterback from a consistent winner by trading for Ryan Tannehill.
ESPNS’ Jenna Laine suggested it among her initial list of possible quarterbacks for the Bucs after Tom Brady announced his retirement Feb. 1. Tannehill has a 30-13 record with the Tennessee Titans in the past three seasons. His success with the Titans includes an AFC Championship Game appearance, a No. 1 seed, and two AFC South Division titles. He also made the Pro Bowl in 2019.
“Tannehill is at his best with a strong ground game, and the Bucs could certainly lean on that if they brought back [Leonard] Fournette,” Laine wrote.
Fournette, who is set to become a free agent, rushed for 812 yards and eight touchdowns in 2021. He also caught 69 passes for 454 yards and two touchdowns.
Tannehill benefitted from Derrick Henry, who had monster rushing seasons in 2019 and 2020. It didn’t work that way in 2021 as Henry got injured at midseason and averaged just 4.3 yards per carry, which was less than Fournette’s average of 4.5 with the Bucs. Henry also didn’t specialize in catching the ball out of the backfield, which Fournette excelled at last year.
While Tannehill doesn’t produce eye-popping passing stats, his best season came in tandem with Henry’s best season in 2020. Tannehill threw for 3,819 yards and 33 touchdowns versus seven interceptions.
Tannehill’s 14 interceptions in 2021 warranted concern, but he also only had Henry for about half of the season. Brady notably threw 12 interceptions in his first season with the Bucs and won the Super Bowl.
Bucs Could Give Tannehill Stronger Targets
If Tannehill joined the Bucs, he could get the strongest receiving core of his career.
He threw passes to A.J. Brown, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Julio Jones, Chester Rogers, and tight end Anthony Firsker last season. After Brown’s 63 receptions for 869 yards and five touchdowns, none of the others had anywhere close to that production. Jones, who dealt with injury, didn’t look like the All-Pro receiver of years past.
Tampa Bay has Mike Evans coming off his eighth-consecutive 1,000-yard season. The Bucs could also re-sign Chris Godwin and convince Rob Gronkowski to stay. Both Evans and Godwin have put up bigger numbers than the Titans receivers for years even before the Brady era.
“I love it in Tampa. I would love to be back,” Godwin said via Fan Duel.
Tannehill and Evans notably both played college football at Texas A&M but just missed each other by two years. The Miami Dolphins drafted Tannehill in 2012 while the Bucs took Evans in 2014.
In six seasons with Miami, Tannehill only had a Pro Bowl receiver in Jarvis Landry for three of those seasons.
Big Price for a Trade
Pulling a trade for Tannehill will pose significant challenges for the Bucs, Laine noted.
The Bucs would absorb his $29 million fully guaranteed base salary in a trade before June 1. Tampa Bay’s $3 million in salary cap space, according to Over the Cap, and 26 players up for free agency makes that task daunting.
“The only way the Bucs could stomach that would be if the Titans took on some of that salary,” Laine wrote.
Selling the Titans on a trade also poses a big challenge because general manager Jon Robinson claims that Tannehill is their guy.
“Ryan’s a pro,” Robinson said according to Pro Football Talk’s Josh Alper. “He knows how much he means to us. Traded for that guy. Gave him an opportunity to start. New contract. I think it’s pretty apparent where he stands with us. He’s our quarterback. I don’t know how many more times I gotta say it.”