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What Ryan Tannehill’s move to CAA could mean for his contract negotiations with the Titans

A change in representation a month before free agency would seem to be a bad sign for the incumbent team, but there are some complicating factors to evaluate here.

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NFL Pro Bowl Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

News broke earlier today that Ryan Tannehill has switched up his representation ahead of free agency, moving from SportsTrust Advisors and his long time agent Pat Dye, Jr. to Brian Ayrault and Todd France of CAA. The agency confirmed the move via Twitter as well.

Players change agents from time to time, but the timing here is obviously quite interesting with Tannehill on the verge of free agency.

On the surface, this strikes me as something of a bad omen with regards to the team’s contract negotiations with their Pro Bowl quarterback. The team has reportedly been in talks with Tannehill’s previous representation for at least two months about a possible contract extension. Players don’t typically fire agents mid-negotiation if everything is going well.

It’s also worth mentioning that Dye told The Athletic’s John Glennon in November that the Titans had wanted Tannehill on a two year contract initially, but the quarterback and his agent didn’t want to get stuck in a spot where Tannehill might wind up playing a backup role for two years before getting a chance to hit the market again.

“But at the time, I said, ‘Jon, you know me, and I think that you trust me. If (Tannehill) comes in here and does what I think he could do, you’ll have every chance to keep him,’” Dye said. “I said, ‘You’ve got to be competitive, and you’ve got to be fair and reasonable.’ But (Tannehill) is not a guy who’s going to come in here, light it up and then look for the next great thing. They love Nashville, they love the team and they love the organization. It’s been fun for them.”

Dye’s words certainly suggest that some sort of understanding was in place between him and Robinson that the team would get a fair shake at extending Tannehill if things worked out. Moving to CAA doesn’t necessarily mean that is off the table, but any progress or framework that Dye and Robinson might had agreed to is probably gone now. The quarterback’s new agents will certainly have their own ideas about what Tannehill is worth. CAA also represents pending free agents Drew Brees, Dak Prescott, and Philip Rivers so no agency will wield more power in the upcoming QB landscape.

Then you have the angle of CAA’s representation of Derrick Henry. The mega-firm now holds the cards with the Titans two most high profile free agents and that’s probably not great for the team. The agency certainly isn’t going to offer a “buy one get one half off” package for the two players and now Robinson’s ability to wield the franchise tag and transition tag as a leverage tool on both guys at the same time is slightly diminished (especially if the new CBA goes into effect before the franchise tag deadline and removes the loophole allowing teams to use both tags this offseason).

That might make you a little wary of this move as it relates to the Titans odds of re-signing Tannehill, but there is another wrinkle here that helps balance the scales of what this move might mean for Tennessee.

Tannehill now also shares an agency with none other than... Titans GM Jon Robinson. Not only is he also a CAA client, but he works with the exact same agent within the mega firm, Brian Ayrault.

The NFLPA does not have any rules regarding conflict of interest in situations like this and that could make for some very interesting conversations that Robinson might be having with Ayrault and his partner, Todd France, over the next month. If Tannehill’s goal was to gain maximum leverage on the Titans, it would seem to be an odd choice to sign on with the GM’s agent of all people.

So what does this all mean? I honestly have no idea. Part of it reads as if Tannehill is not happy with negotiations and might be gearing up for a run at the open market. The other side of it almost hints that he’s aligning himself with the agency that represents several key Titans, including Robinson, Henry, Corey Davis, Taylor Lewan, A.J. Brown, and Harold Landry as he gets prepared to lock in with the organization for the long haul.

The team has until March 16th to reach a deal with Tannehill prior to the opening of the “legal tampering” window and the opportunity for other teams to get involved (though we all know that backchanneling is almost certainly already happening).