Is it the right time for the Titans to call time on what has been an illustrious career for the Titans?
With "Big Country" being one of the more popular Titans, decisions like these are rarely easy but completely necessary. Stewart is at the dreaded age of 30 years old and is slow to recover from a lingering injury that saw him knocked out for significant portions of the 2012 season. Another factor working against Stewart is that he has an contract option due after the 2013 season. The Titans might not be inclined to bring him back due to cost, injury, and age.
It will be a sad day to see Stewart go but as they say, Father Time is undefeated. The Titans have generally been proven right in letting a guy go early instead of holding on until it's too late. It's time to look towards the future and finish the 2013 offensive line rebuilding project by getting younger at the tackles within the next year or so. Thanks to some shrewd cap management by Ruston Webster, there should be plenty of cap space to pursue a capable replacement to Stewart either in free agency or the draft.
The In-House replacements:
Byron Stingily - Can he take the next step and become the heir apparent to Stewart? This year is a very crucial one for his developmental prospects.
Potential Free Agents:
1. Eben Britton OT 6'5 308 - Britton is a familiar face for most Titans fans as he played for the Jaguars before signing a one year deal with the Bears this offseason. He was a solid option for the Jaguars despite their horrendous teams over the past several years. The upside is that he's still young enough to lock up a long term, team friendly deal.
2. Tyson Clabo OT 6'5 331 - The 31 year old Clabo was similar to Stewart as a long time mainstay with the Atlanta Falcons before opting for the Dolphins this year. He was released by the Falcons due to cap reasons. Clabo could be brought in next year to tutor a draft pick for 2014 on a one year deal.
Fortunately for the Titans, should they look to replace Stewart via the draft, this year is loaded with tackles. Here are some options.
1. Taylor Lewan 6'8 302 Michigan - Lewan could've been a top 10 pick in the 2013 draft had he declared. He's the consensus top tackle available and should be gone within the top 15 if not sooner.
2. Jake Matthews 6'5 305 Texas A&M - If the last name sounds a tad bit familiar, he's Bruce's son. 2013 will really tell of his talent as it's his show now that Luke Joeckel is in the NFL. Will switch to left tackle from right tackle. He has been dominant during his stay in college, shutting down every pass rusher to come his way. Considered to be one of the best tackles in the country despite having Joeckel around for 3 years.
3. Cyrus Kouandjio 6'6 310 Alabama - The next man up in Bama's talented offensive line factory. He will have to assume a leadership role after the losses of DJ Fluker, Barrett Jones, and Chance Warmack. In the running for top tackle drafted honors.
4. Antonio Richardson 6'6 332 Tennessee - Dallas Thomas who? Richardson was that good in 2012. He held up against the nation's best pass rusher, Jadaveon Clowney and will get a rematch in 2013. Tennessee's schedule features some talented pass rushers so he should be battle tested. He should be drafted in the 2nd or 3rd round. Will the Titans pluck another instate product?
5. Chaz Green 6'5 305 Florida - The key to Florida's ground game last year. Played right tackle his whole career.
6. Seantrel Henderson 6'8 336 Miami - Despite some well accounted for off field issues, Henderson is a talented player. He's a very big guy that has tight end athleticism. Has played both left and right tackle but better off as a right tackle.
7. Tyler Moore 6'6 312 Florida via Nebraska - Moore is a JUCO transfer after leaving Nebraska and Bo Pelini's antics. He was just the 10th true freshman OL since 1973 to start for the storied Huskers OL program.
If the Titans were to take a tackle via the draft, I'd take one early like a Matthews or a Cyrus K and not worry about the position for another decade or so. If both aren't there, take one of the Richardson brothers (Antonio or Cyril) in the second and bring in a veteran to teach them the ropes. I'd avoid Seantrel Henderson because of the litany of off field problems (nothing legal as of yet, just a case of being a moron constantly).