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Titans Now Know Their QB of the Future. When Will He Get the Job?

Third-round pick Malik Willis won't push aside Ryan Tannehill this season, but that process will start as the third-round pick learns the NFL game.

NASHVILLE – Three rounds into the 2022 NFL Draft, the Tennessee Titans made a move that may signal the beginning of one era and the end of another.

In selecting multi-talented Liberty University quarterback Malik Willis with the 86th overall pick on Friday, the Titans laid out a potential plan of succession for the most important position on the field.

It seems all but certain Ryan Tannehill will remain the team’s starter for the 2022 season, despite a disappointing 2021 that saw the 10-year veteran throw 21 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Tannehill’s contract makes him all but uncuttable this year, as the Titans would be stuck with $57.4 million in dead money, while saving just $18.8 million against the cap.

But 2023 is a different story. The team can save $27 million against the cap if it cuts Tannehill (post June 1) and will take on just $9.6 million of dead money.

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That scenario would seem to set up nicely for Willis, who is considered a prospect with great upside – a cannon arm, tremendous running ability – but one that may need to sit and learn for a year before he’s ready to contend for a starting position.

“We’re really just excited about being able to develop young players and see what happens,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “I don’t think anybody is going to be able to talk about anybody’s future tonight.”

Added general manager Jon Robinson: “I can’t predict the future. But I know right now we’re excited to get him.”

A number of draft analysts thought Willis would be chosen in the first or second round. But as the middle of the third round neared, Willis was surprisingly still on the board. One could almost sense the Titans’ eyes getting wider and wider, to the point that Robinson chose to send the 90th and 169th overall selections in the draft to Las Vegas, allowing Tennessee to move to 86 and snatch Willis.

“As it started to kind of go on, I had my doubts (as to whether he would still be there),” Robinson said. “I thought some teams might look at it like us and be like, `Here’s a good football player who has a lot of good things to work with and develop,’ and then as it got even closer and closer, it became even more apparent that we got a shot here.

“He was the best player on our board. We were a couple of picks out. You’re looking at the teams ahead of you, but you’re also looking and being cognizant of the teams behind you and the potential for somebody to come up or a team in the fourth to come back in to the third.”