As we continue to draw closer to the start of free agency and, ultimately, the NFL draft, it is important to consider that other teams will be vying for many of the same free agent and high-profile prospects as Jon Robinson and the Titans.
Here, let’s take a look at the teams with similar needs at the inside linebacker position. You can view the offensive list here.
We covered the desperate defensive need, AKA cornerback, here.
For reference, the Titans’ currently projected draft picks are: #5, #18, #82, #98 (projected), #122, #163, #217, #241. Estimated cap space: $67M
With cornerback the team’s only desperate need, we’ll now turn to a high-priority position on the defensive side of the ball.
Or more specifically, an inside linebacker who can cover running backs and tight ends. While Wesley Woodyard is underrated in coverage, the only player on the Titans who can truly keep up with backs and tight ends is Kevin Byard, and he can’t do it alone.
Avery Williamson is a fine player, and a solid run-stopper, but he cannot cover. His and others’ weaknesses were exploited many times in 2016. Antonio Gates had 5 catches for 75 yards and a touchdown in Week 9’s loss to San Diego. Ryan Griffin and C.J. Fiedorowicz combined for 7 catches for 102 yards and a touchdown in Week 4’s defeat at Houston. Jack Doyle had 9 catches for 78 yards and a touchdown in Week 7’s loss to the Colts.
Other Teams with Inside Linebacker Needs...
With the passing frequency rising consistently each year in the NFL, more and more teams are looking to find athletic linebackers that can cover in space as well as step up and stuff the run. The number of teams competing with the Titans for the position is staggering...
Matt Miller mocked Reuben Foster to the Bengals with his latest predictions. Foster is the draft’s top inside linebacker; if the Titans want him, they’ll have to take him at #5.
Draft picks: #9, #41, #73, #113, #142 (projected), #143 (projected), #154, #195, #220 (projected), #221 (projected), #232. Estimated cap space: $45M
Although Detroit runs a 4-3 defense, and thus may be looking for a different kind of linebacker, NFL.com said, “The Lions also need a three-down LB who can cover in space.” That actually sounds a lot like what the Titans need.
Draft picks: #21, #53, #85, #125, #166, #207. Estimated cap space: $38M
In the ESPN.com article stating the “biggest 2017 draft needs for every NFL team,” Chiefs beat reporter Adam Teicher named inside linebacker as the Chiefs biggest need and wrote, “The Chiefs need to find the eventual replacement for longtime starter Derrick Johnson.”
Draft picks: #27, #59, #91, #104 (projected), #130, #172, #180 (projected), #213, #222 (projected), #223 (projected), #250. Estimated cap space: $2M
Zach Cunningham has been a common pick for the Miami Dolphins in mock drafts so far, indicating their need at inside linebacker. The Phinsider wrote that Zach Cunningham is “everything the Dolphins need” at linebacker.
Draft picks: #22, #54, #103 (projected), #156, #167, #182 (projected), #183 (projected), #208, #245. Estimated cap space: $29M
The Cardinals need to “add a playmaking inside linebacker,” according to the NFL.com article that named ILB one of the team’s top needs. How high might the Cardinals be willing to address this need? Perhaps they will pursue the position in free agency.
Draft picks: #13, #45, #77, #117, #158, #179 (projected), #199, #236. Estimated cap space: $35M
SportsIllustrated.com identified linebacker as the number one offseason position of need for the Raiders, citing “the fluid but inconsistent Malcolm Smith” and “youngsters Cory James and Ben Heeney” as problems in coverage at the linebacker position.
Draft picks: #24, #56, #88, #127, #169, #210, #247. Estimated cap space: $49M
GMENHQ.com wrote that “The New York Giants need to improve at inside linebacker”. The Giants are another team with a cover inside linebacker need that will be picking shortly after the Titans throughout the draft.
Draft picks: #23, #55, #87, #138, #168, #209, #246. Estimated cap space: $34M
Houston is one of many teams that NFL.com noted as having a need at ILB, writing that “finding a speedy ILB with cover talent is a need” for the Texans. Hopefully they do not fill that need.
On Monday, the Canal St. Chronicles wrote that “linebacker needs upgrading in 2017.” If Reuben Foster somehow falls to the Saints in the first round, I would be surprised to see them pass on him, as well.
Draft picks: #11, #43, #75, #115, #156, #197, #234. Estimated cap space: $29M
- Indianapolis Colts
Colts.com writer Kevin Bowen held a mailbag in January where he answered the question, “Is inside linebacker an offseason need” for the Colts? With the recent release of veteran inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, we must hope the Colts fail to address this need.
Draft picks: #15, #47, #79, #119, #144 (projected), #160, #201. Estimated cap space: $61M
With the surprising news that Dont’a Hightower will likely be hitting free agency, the Patriots are suddenly in the market for an inside linebacker. Could Haason Reddick be in play at the end of the 1st round? Will they pursue anyone in free agency, or possibly retain Hightower? Who knows...
Draft picks: #32, #64, #96, #135, #177, #186 (projected), #218, #255. Estimated cap space: $63M
The NFL.com article referenced a few times above wrote, “This appears to be a strong year for ILBs in the draft, which is a primary need here” in their blurb about the Washington football organization that named ILB one of their top three needs.
Draft picks: #17, #49, #81, #110, #121, #203, #211, #240. Estimated cap space: $64M
With over a third of the league needing an inside linebacker, the Titans will again, just as with cornerback and wide receiver, have to identify their guys and pursue them aggressively. But also like cornerback, inside linebacker is a position that is deep in this draft. The Titans could target a free agent like Lawrence Timmons and/or a young linebacker in the draft.
Stay tuned the rest of this week for a look at the Titans’ other defensive needs compared to the rest of the league...