The Tennessee Titans have had catastrophic luck with injuries over the last few years, and if they can't find a way to stay healthy then they can at least take advantage of a rule change made by the NFL.
The NFL recently passed a new rule that will allow teams to dress a third quarterback on game days, but without using a spot on the game day roster. The rule was put in place to give teams a contingency plan if one of their usually rostered quarterbacks gets injured or ejected from a game, mainly to avoid a situation like the San Francisco 49ers had late in the 2022 season.
This rule is somewhat of a game-changer for the Tennessee Titans.
When you look at their quarterback room, it is one of the stranger ones in the league as it stands right now. Most would agree that their drafting Will Levis this year signals the end of the Malik Willis experiment, but every indication we have right now is that they are still letting Willis battle to keep a place on the team.
Now that this new rule is in place, the Titans coaching staff might extend that opportunity to Willis even beyond the end of training camp.
Tennessee Titans quarterbacks will feel ripple effect of new roster rule
Ryan Tannehill is all but penciled in as starting quarterback for the Titans as long as he is on the roster, but his status with the team has been in question all offseason. While the new development doesn't change anything about his expectations, there is a clause in the new rule that involved him.
If Willis is the QB3, he is only allowed to play in the event of both the starter and the backup quarterback being injured. Let's say that the season goes downhill quickly and the Tennessee Titans want to give Will Levis a shot. If he gets banged up in the middle of a game, the team would have to put Ryan Tannehill on the field because the third quarterback rule only comes into effect if both of the other quarterbacks are unable to play.
Before the new roster rule was in place, the Tennessee Titans were likely going to be in a situation where they were either going to keep Tannehill and cut Willis (they obviously would not cut Levis this early), or part with both Tannehill and Willis and see what they have in Levis as the future of this team.
Now, the Titans can keep Tannehill for at least the start of the season, and see how Levis and Willis fare as it progresses. Depending on how the young guys develop and the state of the overall season, they might eventually decide to revisit a Tannehill trade, which they supposedly mulled prior to the draft.
But based on how little grip we seem to have on the Titans' current and future plan, they seem to be in a "testing the waters" approach as we get closer to the start of the 2023 season. With that and the new quarterback rule being approved, it is way more likely than not that Tannehill at least starts the year with the team.
As for the young guys, many might roll their eyes at the thought of Levis and Willis being in a battle, which makes sense. But anyone who has watched the Titans under Mike Vrabel knows that the rookies will have to work really hard to truly earn roster spots and playing time, and it has already been evidenced by Vrabel and Ran Carthon declaring Levis as the third-string quarterback after the draft.
So this new quarterback roster rule affects Levis and Willis in two main ways, and the first of which is giving Willis further opportunity to play a role on the Titans' roster.
If he does get that extra spot, which is the likely scenario, it might seem like somewhat of an insult, but at the end of the day still gives him that chance to keep a somewhat secure job and more time to develop.
Vrabel gave positive remarks about Willis' offseason progress the other day, and whether he is just saying that or is trying to increase his potential trade value, it appears that Willis is getting another true opportunity to compete. And it also ties into the next effect of this new roster regulation: keeping Levis even more honest.
It was highly likely beforehand, but now it is a near given that Willis stands in Levis' way and will continue to even during the season.
While Levis was drafted to hopefully be the successor to Tannehill, they did not draft him high enough to truly make the Titans commit to him if he crashes and burns in his rookie season. He will need to greatly impress the coaching staff if he wants to get a chance to start, and while there is a low chance of this happening, he will have to put in that much more work to ensure that he is not the one demoted to just being the extra guy.
It was not likely before the rule was in place, but now the Titans have a legitimate reason to keep all three quarterbacks on the roster and very likely will in the season. The competition will last for a long time to come, which can only be motivating and a good thing for everyone involved.