Dolphins gamble on Ryan Tannehill as future at quarterback

With free agency approaching (March 14), we're analyzing the quarterback position on the Miami Dolphins:

2018 cap hits of top returnees:

Ryan Tannehill -- $19.8 million

Brandon Doughty -- $480,000

Pending free agents: Jay Cutler, Matt Moore, David Fales

Key stat: The Dolphins don't have a quarterback under contract who took a snap in the 2017 regular season. Tannehill, who was replaced by Cutler, will return from a left knee injury. Tannehill has torn the ACL his left knee twice in the past nine months, so the Dolphins will need a reliable backup. They did not believe in Matt Moore, now a free agent, enough to make him he starter after Tannehill went down in training camp last season. It's unlikely Moore will be back.

Money matters: The Dolphins have 44 players signed through at least 2018, not counting reserve/futures contracts like the one Doughty is under. With those salaries and rollover from 2017 into the 2018 cap, the Dolphins are projected to have a little more than $14 million in cap space. They also also will cut Julius Thomas and Lawrence Timmons to create a little more room. Regardless, they will need to use some of that cap space to sign a reliable backup.

Big picture: The Dolphins have drafted only one quarterback -- Doughty of Western Kentucky in the seventh round in 2016 -- since selecting Tannehill at No. 8 overall in 2012. The only other Dolphins quarterbacks to be picked in the first round are Rick Norton (1966), Bob Griese (1967) and Dan Marino (1983). The Dolphins have the No. 11 pick overall, which may or may not be high enough to grab one of the four big names at quarterback -- Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen. Though the Dolphins need to think about drafting the quarterback of the future, it all depends on what falls to them. They likely don't have enough draft capital to trade up.

The game plan: The Dolphins hope Tannehill, fully healed from his ACL tear, will be their quarterback for years to come. That said, they are doing their due diligence in scouting Allen and Mayfield, among others available in the upcoming draft. The Dolphins could use their first- or second-round pick on a quarterback, who would become the backup. Alternatively, they could re-sign journeyman Fales, who was the third-string quarterback last season.