So before we get into this (and I get buried in comments regarding any "negativity"), I will say that my goal here is to be as objective as possible and review what we know in a dispassionate light. I think, when all is said and done, that this is how we will get the best idea of what we are looking at, without the clouding effect of fandom on the decisions of the Titans franchise.
That aside, we'll start with the in-house moved that the Titans have made, or should make in the near future.
1. Jackie Battle
(1 year, $855k) - Battle will compete for a spot on the roster next season at the running back position. Beyond that, Battle was a versatile guy who was valuable on special teams. With the top of the position group likely to undergo a big shakeup, Battle may end up seeing more of the field than expected, but a lot can change between now and the beginning of the 2014 campaign.
The move makes sense for the Titans in that they get an experienced player who has multiple functions, for a low price tag.
2. Leon Washington
(Contract undisclosed) - Washington was something of a savior for the Titans last season, righting the ship at the return spot. He is expected to compete for a special teams spot, and will likely split return duties with new add, Dexter McCluster. That said, Washington offers little if any value on offense.
The move was a solid one, as the Titans found out the hard way last year what going into a season unprepared at returner can look like. I don't think it's a forgone conclusion he is on the roster on opening day.
3. Bernard Pollard
(2 years, $6.3 million) - Pollard had arguably the best year of his career last season playing for the Titans. He fits in with Horton's new defensive scheme as an in-the-box safety to provide run support. While he is no ace in space, his coverage woes may have been somewhat overstated over the past few years.
The Titans definitely won in bringing back Pollard for another two seasons, as his play was a big reason for the team turning around the safety spot last year. The contract was fair value for a player who just turned 30, and the length is ideal. I see this pact working out well for both sides.
4. Ropati Pitoitua
(3 years, $9.6 million) - The Titans also shored up their defensive end position group by locking up Pitoitua, who is one of the most underrated players on the roster at this point. While he is not a dynamic pass rusher, he fits in nicely as a run-plugger, and should shine under new DC Ray Horton, whose heavy defensive line rotation is well-documented.
Some have said that Pitoitua's contract was slightly too large for the type of player he is at this point, but his base salary is under $1 million in 2014 and there are few guarantees involved, so I would say it was fairly safe on the team's end. If he doesn't work out in the new system, he won't count against the cap in dead money too badly. In the end of the day, I expect Pitoitua to remain in Titans blue for the life of the deal.
1. Dexter McCluster
(3 years, $9 million, $4.5 guaranteed, $3 million in incentives) - McCluster provides an interesting additional dimension to the Titans offense going forward. In Kansas City he produced both as a running back and receiver in the past. Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt has already commented that he sees "Dex" as more of a running back than a wideout, and "As long as he makes a lot of plays, he's going to get a lot of touches."
The deal is good value for the Titans, adding another versatile weapon with a lot of the money due coming in the form on incentives. The move makes sense, and provides additional security on special teams at the return position.
2. Al Woods
(2 years, $5 million) - As fans we heard all about Pittsburgh (and their fans) not wanting to lose Al Woods, a big DT who should shine as a run-stuffer in the 3-4. But fan opinion aside, Woods played less than 230 snaps last year in Pittsburgh, recording only 8 tackles. And that is no different to his other 3 years, with his track record including all but 22 career solo tackles.
With Karl Klug and Mike Martin on affordable rookie deals, and Sammie Hill already commanding more than his worth in salary, the move didn't make a ton of sense. As Titans fans, we should know by now that paying for potential is almost always a mistake.
3. Charlie Whitehurst
(2 years, Up to $8 million) - Whitehurst holds a career record of 54.2 completion %, with 3 Touchdowns and 4 interceptions in four starts. The Titans need security behind starter Jake Locker, considering his injury history, so while the sentiment to add a stable backup makes sense, the execution of that plan does not.
With only $1 million saved from cutting loose Ryan Fitzpatrick, the move makes very little sense, both on the field or in the accounting books. While Whitehurst is no doubt more familiar with Whisenhunt's offense, he is the poorer player next to Fitzpatrick.
4. Wesley Woodyard
(4 years, $15.75 million, $4.75 million guaranteed) - The need for help at linebacker was a primary concern heading into this offseason, with 3 of the Titans backers ranking in the bottom quarter of the league per PFF's grading metrics. While it has been pointed out that PFF is by no means gospel, I find it hard to fault their evaluation of the Titans linebackers, who were missing tackles left, right, and center last season under the watch of unqualified coaches, and proved poor defenders against the run.
Woodyard lost his starting job last year to journeyman linebacker, Paris Lenon, which is a red flag from the get-go. He is a versatile, athletic player who adds even more speed to an already fleet-of-foot Titans linebacking corps, but his limits as a run defender limited his use to the nickel package primarily during his time in Denver. I don't expect him to start in Tennessee, but he will be a situational piece for Ray Horton to rotate in as needed.
The only problem? The contract he signed, despite being smaller than appearances due to incentives, is still bloated for a guy who will likely be on the field for 50% of the defensive snaps or less. The Titans would likely have benefited with more of a run-defending backer. There is also the argument that he was the best left available to Titans at the point they signed him, but that doesn't absolve the Front Office of failing to land a better guy when FA opened last week.
Woodyard is no doubt an athletic player, and a good locker room guy who has experience as a team leader. While I always say you can never have too many of those, I think his addition to the roster was filling only half of the duties the Titans needed from the LB spot.
5. Michael Oher
(4 years, $20 million, $9.5 million guaranteed) - The departure of David Steward from Tennessee required the RT position be addressed, sure. But was this the best way to go about it? Oher struggled in Baltimore, and never really progressed from the time he was drafted. He ranks dead last in PFF's run blocking rating among qualifying tackles, and his pass pro isn't rosy either, after giving up 8 sacks last season alone.
Titans fans have been spoiled with the steady play of Roos and Stewart for the better part of the last decade, so I expect a rude awakening. While certainly not the worst choice to bring in to start at Right Tackle, you have to question the money. I don't think paying someone $20 million in the hopes that your coaches can "fix" him is conducive to success.
Before we summarize this short off-season window, let is be known that I am not a fan of "winning Free Agency", or signing big name guys to flashy contracts. What I am a fan of if finding the best players available to add to your roster who fit what the team is trying to accomplish, and doing so with intelligent contracts that don't hamstring the franchise in the future.
So, did the Titans "win" or "lose"? I would say that while this is certainly not the worst beginning to an offseason I have seen (See Carolina 2014) this has a shakier run from Ruston Webster's than we're used to, especially after picking up value all over the place in 2013. And that is not even taking into account allowing All-Pro Corner Alterraun Verner to leave town (for an affordable deal no less). While it is too early to judge whether the team fared well or not this off-season, the start has not been all that promising. There is still time to improve the roster, including the upcoming NFL draft, but as a fan it is fair to question the moves of a coaching staff and front office, especially on a team like the Titans who have had a rocky record the past 5 years.
I would hope the FO would consider locking up other players on the roster, especially guys like Jurrell Casey, considering they have the extra cap space to do so this year.
The time was certainly right to move on from the old group, and coach Whisenhunt surely deserves plaudits for building such an accomplished staff around him, but any new regime has a way to go before they win over the fans or prove that they have improved the team from the men who came before. As of yet, I haven't seen that. Let's hope that changes between now and the first snap of the season.