Unless there’s an injury during the preseason, Ryan Tannehill will start the year as the Tennessee Titans‘ starting quarterback.

The Titans drafted Liberty quarterback Malik Willis in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft with the hope that he’ll be the franchise’s long-term answer at quarterback.

But for now, Tannehill is the guy. And the expectation is that Willis won’t seriously challenge Tannehill this summer.

Eventually, though, Willis will get his shot at the starting job. And ESPN’s Turron Davenport believes there’s a scenario where that could happen in 2023.

Davenport suggested this week that Willis could start in week 15 of the 2023 season if the Titans have been eliminated from playoff contention at that point.

Here’s his reasoning:

Week 15 of the 2023 season. Tannehill’s contract has $9.2 million in dead money after the 2023 season. The Titans will need to see what they have in Willis before they make a decision to move on from Tannehill. If Tennessee isn’t vying for a playoff spot, that’s the perfect time to give Willis a chance to show what he can do in live game action.

Titans
Dec 18, 2021; Mobile, Alabama, USA; Liberty Flames quarterback Malik Willis (7) sets up to pass in the first quarter against Eastern Michigan Eagles during the 2021 LendingTree Bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert McDuffie-USA TODAY Sports

The Titans could move on from Tannehill after the 2022 season, but they’d face an $18.8 million dead cap hit.

Davenport essentially believes that Tennessee isn’t comfortable with that cap hit, so they’d give Willis another year to develop behind Tannehill before handing him the reigns.

I think this is probably sound logic. $18.8 million is still a pretty big dead cap hit (though it’s easier to digest than the $57.4 million dead cap hit the Titans would’ve faced Tannehill if they would’ve released him earlier this offseason).

Willis is a raw prospect. He has a ton of upside, but the general feeling is that he’s nowhere close to being ready to start for an NFL franchise. And there’s no reason to rush him along. Despite Tannehill’s poor performance against the Cincinnati Bengals in the playoffs last year, he’s still the Titans’ best option at quarterback right now. And that will probably be the case in 2023, too.

Eventually, Willis will get his shot. He just needs to be patient. Remember, Aaron Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre for three seasons before finally getting his shot with the Green Bay Packers.

That worked out pretty well for Green Bay. Maybe Willis will follow a similar career path with the Titans. Fans are certainly hoping that will be the case.

Featured image via George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK