It's not easy to accept, but we've entered the offseason. With that comes a lot of time to think about how to improve a team that seems to be ready to take a step into the upper tier of AFC teams within the next year or two. In this segment, I'll offer two draft picks and a free agent signing that I think would help fix some of the issues that plagued the 2011 version of the Titans. Feel free to call me out as an idiot or praise me as the next great NFL GM, but I'd really dig it if you stuck with the latter.
Round One: Draft Alshon Jeffery, trade up if necessary.
After today's discussion, I've decided that it would definitely be worth it to make a move to sneak up the draft order to grab this guy. The obvious issue here is that we already have a very talented wide receiver in Kenny Britt and that there are other positions of need, but SuperHorn made some great points about not wanting to get married to a position and missing an opportunity to draft an incredible talent like Jeffery. Aside from that, it should come as no surprise to many of you that a lot of today's top passing offenses have multiple outstanding receivers. New York pairs Hakeem Nicks with Vicor Cruz, Green Bay has a whole bevy of options, but Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson seem to stick out in my mind. Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski offer a different approach and are all about big YAC yardage that come on short dump offs near the line of scrimmage. When Dez Bryant is healthy, Dallas' passing attack is lethal. Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown bring a lot of speed to an aging offense and Atlanta should be set for years with Roddy White and Julio Jones catching passes from Matt Ryan. For what it's worth, I think that Detroit has found itself a great compliment to Calvin Johnson in Titus Young, but we'll let time decide if there's any substance to that. That's a pretty big list of players, but there's legitimate numbers backing me up on this; all of those teams I just mentioned have got passing offenses that rank near the top of the league (all within the top 11) in passing efficiency according to Football Outsiders. I wouldn't say that it's a necessity that you need two top flight receivers to have a lethal passing attack, but there's definitely a connection. This also raises quite a few questions such as whether the quarterback makes the receivers or vice versa. Hopefully it won't matter because Jake Locker is going to be a star, but in any case it's interesting to think about.
Look, I like Nate Washington, that's not who my problem is with here, my problem is with Kenny Britt and his sketchy knees. I do have questions as to whether Washington can keep this pace up though, his heart and team first attitude this year has won me over, but sustained production is still a question mark. In any case, I'd like to see him play more of his natural position in the slot with Kenny Britt out wide with another guy like Jeffry waiting in the wings just in case anything goes wrong with his knees again.
Concerning Jeffery's draft status; I think there's a real chance he could slip all the way to 20. This draft is very deep and that rings especially true for wide receivers assuming Justin Blackmon comes out (which is all but decided given that he was included in Oklahoma State's senior day ceremonies). I'm sitting on the assumption that either Floyd or Jeffery will drop past 19, we need to make sure that it's Jeffery. Don't worry about his drop off in production; all year South Carolina was downright bad at getting production out of their best player. I think Blackmon will come off the board at 7 with the Jaguars, whether Floyd or Jeffery is more coveted at that point has a lot to do with the pre-draft workouts, but hopefully all it will take to get Floyd picked first is that small on field scuffle today that got Jeffery ejected.
Round Two: Draft Kevin Zeitler
This is a world in which I see Ben Grubbs being re-signed by the Ravens.A big reason for the success of Wisconsin's Montee Ball is his massive offensive line. Wisconsin has a reputation for getting some real maulers up there, especially in the run game (if you can't run block, you just flat out can't play for Wisconsin) and this has really solidified their reputation as a terrific place to look for NFL caliber linemen. Zeitler is no exception. Like Jimmy said earlier, if there aren't two new starting guards in 2012, I'll be absolutely livid. For one thing, it just makes sense. The guard play this season was downright horrible. Also; I'd like to see whether Chris Johnson has really regressed that much or whether he's just a victim of circumstance. Palmer isn't going anywhere, it's time to fix what we have the power to fix, and offensive line personell is definitely something that can be fixed.
On to what Zeitler actually offers. For one thing, he's massive. 6'4" and upwards of 315 pounds is NFL-ready size. Remember last year when I was really high on Florida State center/guard Rodney Hudson? Well no longer, that's because he's just too darn small. Zeitler can be a real force at the point of attack and has the strength to just demolish linebackers in the second level. He's a standout in the weight room at Wisconsin where it actually means something given the size of his contemporaries on the line. Zeitler really came on this season and improved on his already great draft stock. He played his way into the first round with strong performances against NFL quality defensive lineman like Devon Still at Penn State and Jerel Worthy at Michigan State in the Big 10 Championship Game.
Something about Zeitler just seems right to me. Mike Reinfeldt, if you're reading this, I implore you to draft this guy, you won't regret it. His pass protection might not be on the same level as his run blocking, but he'll be an instant starter, fill a huge need, and be blasting holes in the line for CJ before you know it.
Free Agent Pickup: Re-sign Cortland Finnegan.
Just do it, make this man a Titan for the rest of his career. Offer him top corner money, don't beat around the bush, do whatever it takes to get this guy back. If he takest the hometown discount, that's awesome, and something tells me he actually might do just that, but don't take chances by playing chicken. Give him your best offer and get it done. Finnegan is one guy the Titans absolutely cannot lose going forward. At a time where passing is obviously at a premium in the NFL, a top 5 corner in the prime of his career is absolutely invaluable. I share the love that many of you have for the young and talented tandem of Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty, but there are very few players I'd rather have leading my defensive backfield than Cortland Finnegan.
You know what would be an easy way to find the money to pay for Finnegan's new deal? By ignoring Michael Griffin's desire to be paid like a top safety! Look, I can't say that I know he'll ask for big money, but I think he's at least earned the right to try, so why not go for it, right? I think there's a team out there that will pay Griffin big money, I just don't think it's in our best interest to do so. While the team is paper thin at safety, Griffin isn't the answer. That being said, if Griffin wants to come back at a discount, I'm all for it. Despite his wildly inconsistent play, he's got a lot more to offer than anyone else we've got at the position. However, if it comes down to Finnegan and Griffin, I think we all know who it has to be. It's not a matter of me liking Finnegan any more than I like Griffin, it's just a matter of what's really best for the team. Finnegan is a bonafide top player, Griffin can be at times, but he also looks timid out there at times and relies on his instincts a lot. That would be fine if he had an Ed Reed skill set, but he doesn't (and that's no disrespect to Griffin either, very few players will ever have that skill set) so it ends up blowing up in his face a lot of the time.
He's a strong veteran presence on the field and off and this team really needs a leader. Please don't let him walk. Pretty please?
Got a problem with the way I'm running things? Does this seem too good to be true? Let's hear it.