($1.046 million in 2014)
Ayers has received rave reports on training camp the past two seasons, being the defense's "jack of all trades". So far, it has been a shame that he is a master of none, however. Using Ayers as a DE on certain sets didn't pay dividends, and he remained a much more effective player when standing up back in the OLB role.
Let's pump the brakes on judgment though. It was revealed after the season, much like in CJ's case, that he had played almost the entire year through a knee injury. Ayers had offseason surgery to repair the knee and is expected to be 100% ready for camp. Despite this hampering injury, he still amassed 48 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 INT.
Multiple metrics graded Ayers as the Titans most effective backer when on the field, but with new LB coach Lou Spanos and DC Ray Horton in town, there will be bigger expectations placed on Akeem Ayers; to take his play to the next level in 2014, the final year of his rookie deal.
($1.2 million in 2014)
Bailey is a backup, and primarily a special teamer at this point. His limited snaps at the OLB spot over the last few years have been sub-par. At this point, he is an over-paid special team guy, whose contract might well be on the chopping block with a new staff in town.
($740k in 2014)
Brown began the 2013 season with a bang, tearing out the gate with big plays, especially in the pass rushing department. Like the rest of the Titans linebackers though, he faded down the stretch in a big way. When asked to play a more conservative, traditional style, Brown was relegated to the realm of ordinary. Despite his over pursuit issues and very public benching, Brown was the most productive of the Titans linebackers, racking up 91 total tackles, 4 sacks, and an interception. He also recorded 5 passes defensed.
Brown stands to benefit the most from the coaching overhaul, as there is little doubt he had the physical tools to make a big splash. The former Tarheel should be poised for a big season upcoming, where it is likely that he will get increased chances to rush the passer from the outside spot. It has also been speculated that Brown might be an ideal fit at ILB on pure 3-4 looks, but the coaching staff has made little indication thus far that this line of thinking has any basis in reality.
($500k in 2014)
The Titan rookie recorded only 13 tackles in very limited snaps. The speedy backer replaced Zach Brown after he was benched late in the season, and played fairly well, if in a lighter capacity. Brown was very soon back in the lineup. Gooden struggled with his health in 2013, and that no doubt limited his chances to get on the field.
He represents an interesting physical specimen for the new coaches to use to their advantage. Gooden matches up favorably with TE's and RB's on pass patterns, much in the mold of Zach Brown, and I expect the coaches to use him on obvious passing downs as he gets more experience and acclimated to the defensive system.
The Titans may be looking to add another dynamic piece to the group despite hording physically talented linebackers the past few years. The Titans outside pass rush still needs a shot in the arm, and it was obvious that Ayers cannot handle that responsibility alone by transitioning into a hybrid role. I expect the team to bring in a pass rusher at Linebacker, or even at defensive end, through the upcoming draft. There are some interesting names in FA that may be available like Brian Orakpo, who, while intriguing, will also come with a heavy price tag.
There are no doubt changes coming to the position group with future additions, and the release of Bailey a possibility as well, along with alterations to the defensive gameplan with the new coaching staff. While the team will remain a hybrid 4-3 for the most part, I have no doubt that more responsibility will be put on the outside linebackers to generate big plays in 2014.
The other State of the Titans Position Groups can be found below: