Welcome back for another edition of Titans offseason quarterback rumors. On this episode, the Boston Sports Jounal’s Greg Bedard writes that Tennessee is using Tom Brady to create leverage in negotiations with Ryan Tannehill.
The truth is there isn’t much of a market, at least not with teams Brady really wants to or would play for. You, me, the Patriots and the lampost know Brady is not playing for Raiders or Bucs. He might, at the very end, play for the Chargers but they might go another direction before that. The Giants and Colts are out. League sources expect the Titans to lock in Ryan Tannehill at some point at a cheaper rate thanks to the Brady leverage, although that could change.
Reports are coming in fast and furious at this point and will continue to as long as the future of the league’s most famous player is undecided. While Greg Bedard is no doubt well-sourced in New England after years of covering the Patriots, his report is just that... a report. It’s one of many that we’ve heard regarding Brady’s future over the past few weeks. Some seem to be aligned, others seem to be contradictory.
Nobody will truly know what’s real and what’s hot air until pen meets paper for one of these quarterbacks, but I do have to say that this narrative of the Brady-to-Tennessee rumors being about leverage rings makes a lot of sense to me.
So let’s break down what we know and why it would make sense for this particular rumor to be true. The Titans were reportedly negotiating a long term extension with Tannehill as far back as early December. They knew then that Brady would be a free agent at the end of the season so if they were truly set on pursuing Brady why would they be talking contracts with Tannehill during the season (something that Jon Robinson typically avoids doing)?
I’m sure some will argue that Tannehill’s playoff performance scared them off and put Brady in play, but I’m not sure I’m buying that one.
Tannehill in the 2019 Playoffs: 36 of 60 (60.0%) for 369 yards (6.2 YPA), 5 TDs (plus a rushing TD), 1 INT for a passer rating of 98.5
Brady in the 2019 Playoffs: 20 of 37 (54.1%) for 209 yards (5.7 YPA), 0 TDs, 1 INT for a passer rating of 59.4
I get that we are talking about one game versus three, but look at the rate stats here. Completion percentage? Advantage Tannehill. Yards per attempt? Advantage Tannehill. Touchdown-to-interception ratio? Advantage Tannehill. Passer rating? Advantage Tannehill.
Tannehill also played a much tougher group of defenses collectively than the Titans defense that Brady played. The Patriots, Ravens, and Chiefs ranked 1st, 4th, and 6th in Football Outsider’s Pass Defense DVOA while Tennessee’s own pass D checked in at 20th. If the 2019 postseason pushed was enough to push you off of Tannehill, it shouldn’t have done much for your faith in Brady either.
We also know that Tannehill wants to be back in Tennessee. He’s said it publicly as recently as two days ago and has been pretty consistent with his comments during the offseason when asked about his status.
.@Titans QB Ryan Tannehill tells us he'd like to return to Tennessee next year but right now is just waiting to see how things play out in free agency.....— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) March 4, 2020
"We'll see....its gonna be an exciting couple of weeks" #TitanUp I #NFLFreeAgency
AUDIO ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/LHn2OCvy6c
Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean much — almost every player says they want to be back under the right circumstances unless they play for the Jaguars — but in this case it’s pretty easy to believe Tannehill. The Titans were the team that gave him a second chance and helped him reach levels that he’d never played at before. He clearly fits this roster and this system extremely well and a guy with his background isn’t likely to take that for granted.
For what it’s worth, Ian Rapoport — who has broken the most Titans related news of any national reporter during the Jon Robinson era — has maintained all along that his understanding was that the Titans focus has been on re-signing Tannehill.
The Brady rumors are fun and even those that have questions about the GOAT’s ability to play at an elite level at age 43, including myself, can see the reasons for the allure. However, the most logical explanation, is the one that Bedard lays out.
Ryan Tannehill is gunning for a big money contract and rightfully so. At 31 years old and coming off a career best season, he knows that this might be his last chance to cash in on big time NFL money.
Jon Robinson is facing the biggest offseason of his career in Tennessee with Tannehill, Derrick Henry, Jack Conklin, and Logan Ryan all hitting the market at or near the top of their position groups and the pressure of raised expectations clung firmly to his shoulders. He needs to not only get his evaluations of the roster and the individual players right, but he needs to squeeze every bit of juice that he can out of his $48 million of cap space.
I see this as a high stakes negotiating tactic — taking advantage of the fact that the dots between Tennessee and Brady are incredibly easy to connect — that could possibly turn into a viable backup plan if the two sides can’t come together over the next couple weeks.
The public flirting with the Titans helps Brady as well. Despite all the talk of him being done with New England, the two sides are still talking which means that door isn’t totally shut yet. Brady wants some say over some of the moves that get made this offseason to make sure he gets the weapons he feels he needs to compete for a seventh Super Bowl.
If you’re like me, you’re ready for the speculation and rumor-mongering to be over at this point, but I thought this one was an interesting twist after momentum for Brady-to-Tennessee had seemed to be growing day by day.