Ryan Tannehill's reportedly significant knee injury didn't have to go down like this

Life as an unlicensed medical professional is substantially easier with the benefit of some finely tuned hindsight goggles, but it sure does look like the Dolphins really messed up with the Ryan Tannehill injury situation. 

Tannehill's status is wide open at this point, although most signs seem to point to the idea that the Dolphins quarterback will undergo season-ending surgery before the season ever begins. Tannehill was wearing a brace on his left knee during training camp practice on Thursday and landed awkwardly during a non-contact situation that left him limping to the locker room; the worst possible sign for a guy who suffered a partial tear of his ACL during Week 14 against the Cardinals

The Dolphins elected to allow Tannehill to rest and recover from the late-season injury instead of undergoing a surgical procedure in early December. There is no hindsight here: having the ACL surgery before the 2016 season ended would have had Tannehill prepared to play by the time training camp rolled around in 2017. We have seen examples of quarterbacks recovering quickly from such injuries, including Carson Palmer and Joe Flacco in the last five years alone. The ACL is a fickle beast, but it is a treatable issue if you have enough time. 

Miami had time, and Tannehill had time. Maybe they hoped he could recover in time to play in the playoffs. Maybe the partial tear was not significant enough (a weird thing to say) that rest and recovery could help Tannehill get back in time for full offseason activities. That feels as short-sighted as the Colts believing Andrew Luck could recover from a shoulder injury over the course of two years instead of biting the bullet and having a surgical procedure done. 

It's particularly bizarre given the wording used by one source to ESPN's Adam Schefter, who called Tannehill's knee a "ticking time bomb."

One source said Thursday that, because Tannehill did not repair his partially torn ACL during the offseason, his knee was "a ticking time bomb that was going to go off at any time."

For those of you scoring at home, time bombs are very bad. You do not want a knee to be a time bomb. Schefter also insinuates it was Tannehill who largely "avoided" having the surgery done.

The Dolphins recognize they might have to step in and recommend the surgery that Tannehill has avoided since he initially injured the knee last December against Arizona.

This is particularly confusing. Not because Tannehill wouldn't want to have surgery. No one wants surgery, especially NFL quarterbacks who are trying to build off secretly successful seasons and grow in the second year under QB guru/whisperer Adam Gase. Tannehill being hurt with Jay Cutler in free agency perhaps would have ... complicated things.

Except this is where none of this makes sense for Tannehill. He was set to make $20.3 million in salary and had a dead cap number of $24.875 million. There was zero chance the Dolphins could move on without him on the roster. It would have been prohibitive. Barring an offseason injury, Tannehill was going to be the quarterback in 2017.

Next year is a whole different ballgame though. The Dolphins have an out in the contract after 2017, when Tannehill's salary becomes $19.8 million and his dead cap number drops to $4.6 million. If Miami decides Tannehill is not a franchise quarterback after 2017, they can move on from him with limited repercussions. 

If Miami decides his injury is too problematic and Tannehill can't perform in 2017 to prove his worth, the Dolphins can easily talk him into renegotiating his deal. If Cutler joins the roster on a two-year deal and plays really well, Tannehill might find himself in the same situation as Teddy Bridgewater (albeit with less health issues). 

That's why it makes zero sense for Tannehill to have avoided surgery last year and this offseason. Knock it out, get it done and get ready for the biggest season of your career, a second year with Gase and a "prove-it" season to make the Dolphins pony up a new contract with more guarantees over the next three years. 

Instead, Tannehill opted not to have surgery, and the Dolphins opted not to aggressively prod him into having surgery. And here we are, just four weeks out from the start of the season with Miami's quarterback situation completely clouded for the present and even more murky for the future. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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