The Titans went into 2013 with big hopes at Guard. They backed up the brinks truck to land the best FA lineman on the market in Andy Levitre, the impressive young Guard from Buffalo. They also pulled the trigger on Alabama product Chance Warmack at the 10th overall draft spot. In addition, the FO added versatile swing guard, Chris Spencer who had previously played for the Chicago Bears. How does the position group look going into 2014?
($6.5 million salary in 2014)
Levitre was a heralded addition in Tennessee, and that can be a parting gift from Mike Munchak, who just signed on to be the Steelers OL Coach for next season. The HOF Titans lineman was a big part in landing Levitre, and the contract was actually a fairly smart one. The deal was front loaded with guaranteed money, but his salary doesn't increase at all over the life of his contract, actually decreasing in his final year. Good move Ruston.
Former line coach and Titans HOF lineman, Bruce Matthews, had this to say about Levitre:
"He’s probably, if not the best, one of the best offensive linemen in the league at using his hands...He does a really good job of fitting up with his hands, which in our world, that’s one of the most important things, if not the most important."
In 2013, Levitre had a slow start due to an injury in camp and recovery from surgery. He graded out fairly well in most metrics though, and provided a solid base on the left side with Michael Roos maintaining his solid play as well. By the end of the year, Levitre was the Titans best offensive lineman. Despite some nagging issues with holding penalties, the Titans should be thankful to have a guy of Levitre's quality holding down the left side of the line for years to come.
($495,000 in 2014)
The lauded "safest pick in the draft", wasn't so rosy. The former Alabama star got a very slow start to the year as well, and while providing a solid force in the running game, he was lacking in pass protection abilities. The rookie faced an issue a lot of top college linemen face in the pro's, in that they aren't able to overpower their opponents consistently at the highest levels. While he has work to do to grow and improve his game, he was still an important addition to the line overall. He was heading in the right direction when the season ended, and should be improved in his sophomore campaign. And beyond this, he played all 16 games. You can't discount that.
The play below may be one of my favorite run plays from the entire year. Warmack shows off his surprising athleticism to pull across the formation and deliver a big block to open up a gaping lane for CJ. This is the kind of thing the new coaching staff need to be focusing on with Warmack and Levitre, who both excel in these types of situations.
You can thank the new CBA for the Titans drafting Warmack. Prior to the new deal, teams were very wary of selecting interior linemen in the top 10, and even the first round, due to the lopsided contracts. Now the Titans get the keep Warmack around for three more years on a low pay scale.
Spencer didn't see the field much last season other than filling in for David Stewart at tackle. He is a FA at this point after signing a single year deal with the Titans last off-season.
The Titans will need to add some bodies at the Guard spot, whether they look to re-sign Spencer around or look elsewhere. At the starter spots, the Titans are theoretically set for the next 3-4 years at least, which is a good thought after the revolving doors of 2012. This should emerge as a position of strength for the Titans next season and beyond, and will no doubt be a source of improvement with a more physical back carrying the rock in the interior.