MIAMI — Quarterback Jay Cutler is joining the Miami Dolphins after regular starter Ryan Tannehill suffered anterior cruciate ligament damage to his left knee during practice last week.
Cutler on Sunday agreed to a one-year deal worth $10 million plus incentives, per a league source. As $5 million of that is base salary and another $5 million is a roster bonus, it strongly suggests the Dolphins expect him to be the starter ahead of Matt Moore.
Moore, who helped the team to the playoffs at the end of 2016, is paid like an NFL backup. He’s making $1.75 million this season and is costing the team $2.15 million against the cap.
The price for Cutler is modest for an NFL starting QB, so the Dolphins front office in a sense made the best of a difficult situation.
The Dolphins made a strong push for Cutler — Adam Gase, who coached Cutler in Chicago, convinced him to come out of retirement and postpone a fledgling broadcasting career — because the team knows it is going to be without Tannehill for quite some time and almost certainly until next year.
That’s because Tannehill has a partially torn ACL in his left knee — again — and although it is not yet decided whether that injury will be repaired via surgery or addressed with treatment, he will be out a long time.
Tannehill, 29, suffered a similar injury to the same knee last December and at that time the decision between the quarterback and his doctor, and the Dolphins and their doctor was to treat the ligament rather than replace it.
The treatment, which included stem cell treatments, was the unorthodox path and led to serious questions about the approach because most athletes who tear their ACL have surgery.
That was not, however, an issue until Thursday when Tannehill sustained a new partial tear to the same ligament.
Before Thursday’s injury the Dolphins and Tannehill were confident the knee would not be any more prone to another ACL injury than if surgery had been done after the first injury.
A source said an exam of Tannehill’s knee before to the opening of training camp showed the treated left knee was stronger and in better shape than the right knee that had not suffered any injury.
But all that was lost during practice Thursday when Tannehill scrambled right out of the pocket, ran up the sideline, planted awkwardly on the left knee before going out of bounds, and fell to the ground with the most recent tear.
A brace that was meant to help stabilize Tannehill’s knee did not prevent this injury.
Tannehill spent the past several days consulting multiple medical experts with the hope of perhaps undergoing rehabilitation to the knee rather than submit to surgery. No final decision has been made, per a source.
The more likely decision is surgery because, according to a source close to Cutler, he didn’t want to come to the Dolphins unless it was clear he would not be somehow stepping into a situation where Tannehill might return this season. And Cutler got those assurances, the source said.
The reason Cutler was Miami’s choice over all other available quarterbacks is because of his and Gase’s familiarity. The two worked together with the Chicago Bears in 2015. Gase was Cutler’s offensive coordinator and helped the player enjoy one of his more solid seasons.
Cutler threw 21 TD passes and 11 interceptions in 2015 and posted a career-best 92.3 quarterback rating. Perhaps more important, Gase helped rehabilitate Cutler — raising him from a sulking, unhappy turnover-ridden player to one who seemed to enjoying playing again and had the respect of most of his teammates.
Former Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is bypassing the broadcasting booth for the 2017 season, choosing instead to sign a one-year deal with the Miami Dolphins to replace injured Ryan Tannehill.