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Ryan Tannehill is failing to live up to his $95 million deal

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Tannehill is making the big bucks, but he's struggling this season and so are the Dolphins.

The Miami Dolphins were in desperate need of a quarterback heading into the 2012 NFL Draft, and with the Indianapolis Colts likely taking Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, the team had to either trade into the second spot or settle with an also-ran. The Dolphins weren't able to trade into the pick that went to Washington, and they made a widely criticized decision to reach for Ryan Tannehill.

Ever since he was drafted, Tannehill has been considered below the tier that Luck occupies and that Griffin once occupied. He was the consolation prize that the Dolphins had no choice but to roll with, but now in his fourth season, Tannehill remains their starter and, depending who you ask, their franchise quarterback.

Yet after signing a six-year, $95 million extension this offseason, Tannehill hasn't taken that next step. In his previous three years, Tannehill showed improvement in critical stats: He increased his completion percentage by seven total points, more than doubled his touchdown rate and kept his interceptions under control by the end of last season.

In 2014, he completed 66.4 percent of his passes for 4,045 yards with 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, all career bests. Although the Dolphins missed the playoffs with an 8-8 record, there was enough promise surrounding the team that the expectations were high coming into the season.

But after spending big on the free agent market, Miami is struggling this season at 3-5, and Tannehill looks decidedly average.

Quarterbacks got paid this year

This offseason, several large contracts were handed out to quarterbacks around the league. Tannehill signed his extension before many of the others were paid even more money, but for a young quarterback who has never been to the playoffs or even a Pro Bowl, the number still shocked many people.

However, the Dolphins can either pick up or decline his $14.5 million option in 2017, meaning Tannehill still has to prove he's worth the rest of his contract.

Soon after Tannehill's new deal, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton signed a five-year contract worth $103 million, the richest deal of the quarterbacks signed this offseason, but he also had the most years on his deal. In fact, Newton wound up being the lowest of the big names signed from an average per year standpoint.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was next, and his average is the highest, by a small margin. Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and Eli Manning, old hands in comparison to the other three, all signed deals, each getting about the same amount of money in the end.

Player Total Value Average Guaranteed
Ryan Tannehill $77 million $19.25 million $45 million
Cam Newton $103.8 million $20.76 million $60 million
Russell Wilson $87.6 million $21.9 million $61.542 million
Ben Roethlisberger $87.4 million $21.85 million $31 million
Philip Rivers $83.25 million $20.8125 million $65 million
Eli Manning $84 million $21 million $65 million

Only one of those numbers looks off -- the guaranteed amount for Roethlisberger -- but his contract contained various injury guarantees to get him on par with the rest of the contracts. Tannehill was the first quarterback signed, and he has the lowest numbers in all of the pertinent stats.

Tannehill ultimately he set the floor for the extensions for the rest of the quarterbacks. Every one of them was able to point to Tannehill's contract and use his as a baseline, with more money on top.

How Tannehill stacks up to his peers

Tannehill was clearly below all of those guys when contracts got done, but does he deserve to be in company with those kind of players? It really depends which metric you use. At face value, Tannehill is having a productive season, with 2,237 yards, which ranks him seventh in the league. That's higher than MVP candidate Andy Dalton, just below Eli Manning, and above everyone else from the chart, except for Rivers.

But looking at accuracy, he doesn't show quite as well. He ranks 17th in the league with a 64.2 completion percentage. Of the players on that list, only Newton ranks lower -- but Newton also has the Panthers at 8-0 and like Dalton, is up for the league's MVP award. Factoring in interceptions, Tannehill and Newton are tied for sixth in the league with nine of them.

But wins matter, and in that category, Tannehill hasn't been a difference maker.

So is he overrated?

Not exactly. It's safe to say the Dolphins did not expect him to show regression this season, but there is still half the season left, and not all of Miami's issues fall on Tannehill.

After an anemic 1-3 start, the team fired head coach Joe Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle. The Dolphins dumped a boatload of money into defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh this offseason, and his play has been lacking. They also have a lot of money tied into pass rusher Cameron Wake, who was put on season-ending injured reserve. Miami's defense ranks 25th in the league overall, and 23rd in the league in points allowed. Meanwhile, Tannehill has the Dolphins at 13th overall on offense. Taking all quarterback contracts into account, Tannehill is making 10th-most in the league in average salary per year.

Even though Tannehill is struggling this year, and he's having troubles taking care of the football, his contract isn't looking egregiously bad at this stage. And for comparison's sake, the regression isn't as significant as what's happening to Colin Kaepernick (the 11th highest-paid quarterback) in San Francisco.

Tannehill will still get every opportunity to succeed with the Dolphins. He is signed through the 2020 season, he is young and he is still putting up yardage. But he either needs to step up his play or Miami needs to start winning games. If he can't rebound from a disappointing first half of the season, Tannehill won't have performed up to the standards of his trendsetting contract.

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