Without any restructures or cuts, the Tennessee Titans are projected to have nearly $51 million this year to spend in free agency. That should mean a huge offseason period for a team that is looking to go out and fix a lot of issues on this team on both sides of the ball.
The question is, how do you distribute the money though the "waves" of free agency. In the past, the Titans have usually been big players in the 2nd wave of free agency which is mostly filled with guys who were above average starters that either got replaced or had some issues in the previous seasons to caused GMs to disagree with them about there value.
However, there is a first wave of free agency which last year was filled with the like of Ndamukong Suh, Randall Cobb, Jeremy Maclin, Mike Iupati, Rodney Hudson, Darrelle Revis, and Devin McCourty.
That is the wave the Tennessee Titans should be most involved in this year. So how much should they spend at this time?
First wave: 3 starters for $24.3 million annually (just under 50%)
The Titans need to make a splash but in the correct way, and that is exactly what I expect Jon Robinson to do. Robinson has all the credentials and he has been excellent in the draft so it stands to reason that his ability to identify talent in players is very strong.
His only issue in the past aside from not having full autonomy is the lack of cap room he has had to deal with. Now, in this crucial first year with the Titans, it is these players that fans and media will judge him on in three years. So, he needs to hit this wave and hit it hard, and with a quarterback like Marcus Mariota, a great city like Nashville, Dick LeBeau on the defensive side, and plenty of money I think the Titans will be able to make some moves here that make a lot of sense for both parties.
My wishlist for this wave:
Damon Harrison: 5 years/$30 million ($6 million annually)
-Harrison is a great run stuffing NT who has a lot of similarities to former Dick LeBeau star Casey Hampton. He is heading into his contract and this would make him the highest paid nose tackle in the league, and rightfully so.
Mitchell Schwartz: 6 years/$60 million ($10 million annually)
-Schwartz is the best right tackle in the league and in a division with J.J. Watt the Titans can't let Marcus Mariota stand behind anything less than blue-chip talent there. Even if the Titans move over Taylor Lewan there is no guarantee that he is as good there as he is at RT.
This gives the Titans every opportunity to trade back in the draft and get more picks, and while it makes Schwartz the second highest paid right tackle in the league (behind Lane Johnson who will move to left tackle in the future) it would only make him the 8th highest paid tackle in the NFL. That is a steal in a league that has to face more balanced pass rushes.
George Iloka: 5 years/$41.5 ($8.3 million annually)
George Iloka is a great, young free safety that will let Dick LeBeau play more aggressively on defense. This would make Iloka one of the top-5 highest paid safeties in the NFL (at least until the Eric Berry numbers are announced) and it would give the Titans stability in the secondary.
Just because he doesn't have the name recognition of Eric Berry, don't underestimate his potential impact on this team as someone who can keep the likes of DeAndre Hopkins, T.Y. Hilton, and Allen Robinson from gashing the Titans.