Tennessee Titans: Draft and Free Agency Needs

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2013 NFL season whittling down to it's finale, what do the Titans need to do over the coming months to book their ticket in next year's postseason?

The Titans have a number of areas to address going into 2014. A wave of possible notable cuts loom for veterans like CJ, Stewart, Wimbley, and others as well. The work Webster does this offseason may characterize his entire career as a GM. He's gotten his guy with Whisenhunt, who came to town with the connections to land Ray Horton as DC. Beyond this, he and Whisenhunt hand-picked who stayed and who received their walking papers. Make no mistake, this is now 100% Webster's team. Let's see what he can do with it.

Re-signings

First of all, Webster and co. need to focus on cleaning up the remaining in-house issues. The most pressing concern is the status of Alterraun Verner. Verner will command a healthy salary on the open market, but all efforts should be made to at least franchise him in order to work out a long term deal. Bernard Pollard is also an important piece that should be brought back for next year. He is likely to get a deal close to his salary from 2013, $2 million a year. For taking a need off the draft board, Pollard is more than worth that kind of money.

Webster should also be thinking of an extension for Jurrell Casey, who's expense is likely only to increase after next season. Casey is a top 3 player on this Titans team, and he needs to be locked down. He will be an increasingly important cog in Horton's revamped Titans defense. Pitoitua played well for the contract he received, and he would warrant a return as a cog on the line, rather than a full blown starter.

Pass Rush

With the aforementioned Casey bringing consistent heat from the middle of the line, it was increasingly obvious that the Titans edge rushers were underwhelming. As the Titans are likely to be running a similar 4-3 under scheme next season rather than a pure 3-4 as some have speculated, the pass rushing ends need to be upgraded. The Titans should definitely be considering a pass rusher at 11 if one falls into their laps. As has been mentioned, Pitoitua is not a dynamic pass rusher, and the Wimbley/Ayers combo fell short of expectations as well. If nothing catches Webster's approval during draft day, maybe Greg Hardy or Michael Bennett would be options if they don't get resigned or tagged.

It would also be worth throwing a hat in the ring to land Brian Orakpo at OLB, who can be used as a hybrid pass rusher and would fit nicely in Horton's new defensive alignment. He would likely be pricey, but the ability to effectively put pressure on opposing QBs was extremely inconsistent for Tennessee last season, and it reflected on the scoreboards more often than not. On a side note, it is a testament to how good this Titans secondary can be that they played so well despite the poor pass rush last year. With some extra heat on QBs, this corps could be outright dominant.

Inside Line Backer

Colin McCarthy and Moise Fokou are not the long term answers at ILB. Both are solid players, but both are prone to mistakes, and neither showed the ability to play down-hill consistently in 2013. I have higher hopes for the linebacking corps in 2014 as they are working with some noticeably upgraded talent in the coaching department, but I don't view Fokou as starter material going forward. I would be all for taking an ILB high in the upcoming draft, but a player like Donald Butler might be a good option too, as Whisenhunt is familar with him from last year in San Diego.

Some will point to names like Anthony Barr at 11, being a player the new LB coach, Lou Spanos, is very familiar with, to re-stock the linebacking corps of the Titans. Whatever route the team decides to go, the spot needs addressing to avoid the same struggles occurring in 2014.

Offensive Tackle

David Stewart has likely played his last down as a Titan, and his high-end salary will give the team more cash to work with. It is unlikely that Byron Stingely takes over full time at RT, but he did play well in Stewart's place last year. The coaches will be watching him closely this offseason to determine if he can be the guy. I have my doubts. In a tackle heavy draft, I can see Webster taking a young guy who can be the future of the spot. Tackles are expensive on the open market, so this would be the best option.

If they did need to dip into the Free Agent pool for an answer, the old vet Branden Albert is an option, and Jared Veldheer of the Raiders might also be available if he is allowed to leave Oakland unsigned.

Other Areas

The Titans should look to the draft for a new RB to pair with Shonn Greene. The free agent stock is extremely limited and the overall talent available isn't anything noteworthy, especially when considering the kind of cap figures they will command. Best to avoid backs like Ben Tate who have been brittle at best, and dip into the draft for a runner who comes with a low cap and a high ceiling.

I doubt any changes are made at QB, but if Fitzpatrick is released, I would also look into the later rounds of the draft. Unless they feel Tyler Wilson could one day be something special, a QB in the later rounds would be a more cost-effective option to Fitzpatrick. At this point though, I think it would be wise to stick with Fitz for his experience. He is certainly in a better position to help the team should Jake go down than another FA QB or a green rookie QB.

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All in all, the Titans don't have too many spots to "fix" this offseason. There are depth concerns at several spots, but nothing glaring beyond what has already been discussed. The Titans tackled the major issue already by replacing the coaching staff. If Webster and Whisenhunt can mold this roster to their liking, I am confident that we at MCM will be a happier bunch at this time next year.

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