The Titans tried to switch things up at DE after a horrendous season on defense in 2012. How does the unit look now, two years removed, heading into 2014?
($2.065 million in 2014)
Coming off his best season in 2012, ironic considering the defensive ineptitude, Morgan dipped back down to the mediocre range. In 2012, he graded out as the 3rd best 4-3 DE per Pro Football Focus, this year, he was well outside the top 10. While Morgan clearly is no "bust" and has a strong place in the defense, his 2013 season was somewhat of a letdown. One of the areas Morgan's 2013 season differed from the year before? Tackles. Morgan had almost a 50% reduction in his tackle count, and a lot of that can be attributed to not having to play a ludicrous amount of snaps. His sack production remained constant at 6, but he has more value to the defense as a well rounded end who can play both the pass and the run equally well.
Morgan has two years remaining on his rookie deal, with a voidable year in 2015 with a cap hit of only $1.6 mil.
The 6'-8' Samoan, Ropati Pitoitua followed up a strong camp showing by winning the starting job over Kam Wimbley opposite Morgan in 2013, surprising many fans. Pitoitua provided a stabilizing force on the edge, able to play physically against the run, and use his extensive wingspan to disrupt throwing lanes for opposing QBs.
He recorded 4 sacks, 4 passes defensed, and an impressive 44 tackles from his spot at DE. He signed only a one year deal last off-season, and is a Free Agent at this point. While he's not the flashy player most fans clamor for at DE, he was a valuable cog in an improved line. The team would have been better had it possessed a dynamic pass rusher to pair with him, and 2013 revealed they really didn't have one.
($6 million in 2014)
Kam Wimbley said he has "No Idea" if he'll return to Tennessee next season. There's ample reason for doubt. The Titans can shave $2.4 million off the cap if they opt to cut the FSU product, an by so losing a player who was on the field for only 360 snaps in 2013. Wimbley made a few plays in 2013, but like the rest of the pass rush, he was incredibly inconsistent. With his limited run-stopping skills from the end spot, this made him relatively ineffective overall.
There have been speculations about a possible reverting back to OLB. New DC Ray Horton should give that option a long look. And if it turns out he doesn't fit there either, the team can part ways knowing they made the right decision.
($495k in 2014)
The former LSU end played only limited snaps in his rookie season, but there is reason for optimism. While being a late pick for the Titans, Edwards had a strong camp showing and managed to get on the field and make an impact, albeit a smaller one.
With the defensive end crop in Tennessee likely to be thinned out next season with Pitoitua and Wimbley out of the picture, the opportunity is there for Edwards to impress the new staff and earn significant playing time.
The Titans have all the pieces on paper, but those building blocks didn't add up to a complete picture in 2013. The team still begs for a dynamic pass rusher. And no, sticking Akeem Ayers at DE wasn't the answer either. With a new staff and likely a couple of new adds, I look for the pass rush in particular to be night and day, at least I hope it is.
In the run game, the Titans have the pieces to get the job done, especially if Pitoitua is re-signed. Outside of Jason Babin (ugh), the Titans have lacked a true difference maker at DE since Jevon Kearse....that needs to be remedied this off-season. Dipping into the FA pool for a guy like Michael Bennett or drafting a dynamo off the edge in the upcoming draft is almost a must at this point.
* For the record, Karl Klug is now listed as a DE on the Titans official website, but since we just looked at him the other day, we'll leave him be.