Has Ran Carthon already drafted Ryan Tannehill's replacement as Tennessee Titans QB in 2023?
After serving in the front office to advise several decisions on the San Francisco 49ers' quarterbacks, general manager Ran Carthon came to Nashville with a mission.
Carthon served as a director of player personnel with the 49ers and was on the executive board when the team acquired Jimmy Garoppolo and drafted Trey Lance and Brock Purdy. As he begins his work with the Titans, Carthon will face a decision on retaining Ryan Tannehill or replacing him and building for the future.
If he chooses the latter option, it stands to reason he'd include one of his successful acquisitions in San Francisco in the mix.
The case: Jimmy Garoppolo
The 49ers hired Carthon after the 2017 NFL Draft and brought him on as the director of pro personnel. Carthon helped advise the team on the executive decision in October 2017 to trade for Garoppolo, the former New England Patriots quarterback, who completely turned things around in San Francisco. Garoppolo went 7-0 in his first seven starts and finished the season with 1,560 passing yards, seven passing touchdowns, five interceptions and one rushing touchdown.
Carthon also likely contributed toward signing Garoppolo to a five-year extension with the 49ers in 2018, worth $137.5 million, including $86.4 million guaranteed in the first three years. The veteran quarterback led the team in a couple of playoff appearances and to Super Bowl 54, where San Francisco lost to the Kansas City Chiefs.
After his 2018 season ended prematurely because of a torn ACL, Garoppolo was runner-up to Tannehill as the Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year in 2019, despite the Super Bowl loss.
Fast-forward to present, and Garoppolo, 31, is three years younger than Tannehill - but a bit more injury-prone - and is an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
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The case: Trey Lance
Following the 4-12 season in 2018, with Nick Mullens taking over at quarterback, Carthon was promoted to director of player personnel and likely coordinated with the 49ers on selecting rookie quarterback Trey Lance at No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. Lance signed a four-year deal worth $34.1 million that included a $22.2 million signing bonus and a fifth-year option after his third season.
Garoppolo was named starter over Lance in 2021 and played in 15 of 17 games before leading the 49ers to the NFC Championship loss against the Los Angeles Rams, which won the Super Bowl. Lance made his first NFL start against the Arizona Cardinals that season, then made his second start against the Houston Texans in Week 17 for his first career win.
Lance started the first two games of the 2022 season before suffering a fractured fibula, ending his season. He expects to be ready for offseason practices and has two years remaining on his rookie deal.
The good news: His $3.76 million salary in 2023 would fit neatly into another quarterback room. The bad news: That salary comes with a cap hit of $9,301,439, and the 49ers would face a dead cap hit of $20,153,117 if he's moved during the 2023 league year.
The case: Brock Purdy
The 49ers selected quarterback Brock Purdy with the last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, 262nd overall, and signed him to a rookie contract worth $3,737,008 with a modest $77,008 signing bonus guaranteed. Garoppolo, in addition, restructured his contract with the 49ers before the 2022 season. They agreed on a one-year deal to include a no-trade clause and a no-tag clause with several additional bonuses, and a fully guaranteed base salary of $6.5 million.
Lance was named starter ahead of the 2022 season and lost to the Chicago Bears before he suffered the broken ankle. Garoppolo led the team to win seven games in 10 games but then suffered a season-ending foot injury.
It was Purdy's time to shine. The rookie quarterback from Iowa State made his first NFL start against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by Tom Brady, and completed 16 passes for 185 yards with two touchdowns to earn his first win.
Purdy led the 49ers to six consecutive wins. He made his first postseason starts in an NFC wild-card game against the Seattle Seahawks and the divisional round against the Dallas Cowboys before he suffered an elbow ligament injury in the first quarter of the NFC Championship against the Philadelphia Eagles. Purdy suffered a complete tear to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) and is expected to be out a minimum of six months, per multiple reports.
In other words: It's hard to see Purdy being Tannehill's replacement any time soon.
The case: Final thoughts
With Tannehill entering the final year of his four-year contract, Carthon could think about Garoppolo, Lance or Purdy as short- or long-term options for Tennessee. Garoppolo is an unrestricted free-agent, and Lance and Purdy are both coming off serious injuries. Even still, it stands to reason all three quarterbacks won't return to the 49ers next season. Lance was good enough to start the 2022 season, Garoppolo was good enough to play the 49ers into playoff contention and Purdy was good enough to get San Francisco to the NFC Championship as the darling of the second half of the season. Would Purdy come to Nashville to back up Tannehill for one season while he reacclimates after his elbow injury? Would Garoppolo sign another 1-year deal? Would the 49ers move on from Lance?
Time will tell. But Ran Carthon could surely find out.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Tennessee Titans GM Ran Carthon already may have drafted their next QB