Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been medically cleared to participate in the Miami Dolphins' offseason program when workouts and practices begin in late April and early May.
Tannehill, who has missed 17 games the last two seasons because of a left knee injury he had surgically repaired in September, should not have any limitations practicing with his new teammates, and is ready to take the next step as the Dolphins' starting quarterback coach Adam Gase said Tuesday at the NFL Annual Meeting.
"He's ready to go. I know I'm going to get a lot of dirty looks if I say, 'Are you ready to go?' " Gase said about Tannehill.
And outside of playing with a custom-made knee brace, Gase doesn't expect Tannehill, who he has said will be the team's starting quarterback in 2018, will need to change anything about his game because of the injury.
"I don't think he's ever put himself in harms way," Gase said of Tannehill, who suffered the injury in 2016 when Calais Campbell ran into his left leg while he was standing in the pocket during a victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
Tannehill, who didn't undergo surgery after originally injuring the knee, suffered a setback during training camp in August when the knee buckled when he scrambled during an 11-on-11 session. After re-injuring the knee, it was decided that Tannehill would have the anterior cruciate ligament surgically repaired with the hopes that it would improve the knee's stability.
Quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Matt Moore started games for the Dolphins in 2017, delivering a 6-10 record for Miami. But Gase is certain Tannehill's overall knowledge of Miami's offense improved from watching what took place last season from the sideline.
"Sometimes when you sit and watch you look at things in a different light," Gase said of Tannehill, who has completed 62.7 percent of his passes, throwing for 18,455 yards and 106 touchdowns with 66 interceptions during his five seasons as an NFL starter. "The clarity really picked up for him as far why I was calling things, why I was doing certain things, the way I would install something."
According to Gase, Tannehill understands Miami's offense and his thought process as a play-caller better than he did in past years, and that has Gase excited.
"Now it makes more sense than it did before," Gase said of Tannehill, who he pointed out produced a 102.6 passer rating and 7-1 record in the eight games he played before the injury that followed Miami's 1-4 start in the first five games of 2016.
"I think he can be outstanding. We haven't seen the best of Ryan Tannehill yet," Dolphins owner Steve Ross said. "I look forward to seeing how Ryan can perform."
This month, the Dolphins fortified the offensive line by signing veteran free agent Josh Sitton, who will play left guard, and replaced long-time center Mike Pouncey with Daniel Kilgore to provide Tannehill a better chance of making things happen in the pocket.
Gase said Miami also added a quarterback-friendly receiver in Danny Amendola, and a speedster like Albert Wilson to ease the departure of Jarvis Landry, a three-time Pro Bowler the Dolphins traded to Cleveland for a 2018 fourth-round pick and a 2019 seventh-round selection.
The Dolphins signed veteran quarterback Brock Osweiler as the team's backup last week, and re-signed David Fales, whose development late last season was encouraging to Miami's coaches.
"Brock has the toolset we saw when we drafted him in Denver," Gase said, referring to his tenure as the Broncos' quarterback coach and offensive coordinator, which including Denver's drafting Osweiler in the second round of the 2012 draft, 49 picks after Miami selected Tannehill. "He's kind of had a couple of rocky times the past few years. But he knows how things need to be done."
Even with Tannehill, Osweiler, Fales and Brandon Doughty in the fold, Gase acknowledged he'd like the Dolphins to select a quarterback in this year's NFL draft. But he isn't mandating that general manager Chris Grier make drafting a quarterback a priority.
"I'd love to add a quarterback just like everybody, but we'll get the right guy for us," Gase said.
Gase said he likes a couple of the quarterbacks who are viewed as first-round talents, but pointed out that as many as three teams could trade up to get ahead of Miami's No. 11 pick, possibly targeting USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen, Wyoming's Josh Allen and Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield, the four quarterbacks projected as possible first rounders.
Even if the Dolphins do draft a quarterback early, it is doubtful that the rookie could unseat Tannehill for the starting spot because of Gase's confidence in Tannehill, and the relationship he has with seven-year veteran, who owns a 37-40 record as Miami's starter.
"It's been a long time coming. I know a lot of guys in that locker room feel the same way," Gase said of Tannehill's return. "If I had to hear 'When we get 17 back' one more time at the end of the year. That was said a lot to me."
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