Hey, everyone... Been a crazy week... Anyway...
As we continue to draw closer to the start of free agency and, ultimately, the NFL draft, we’ve been discussing the fact 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 finish up the rest of the needs on the defensive side of the ball...
For reference, the Titans’ draft picks are: #5, #18, #83, #100, #125, #164, #214, #236. Estimated cap space: $67M
As we’ve already covered the team’s desperate defensive need (cornerback), as well as the high priority position (inside linebacker), we will now turn our attention to other defensive positions the Titans could consider upgrading throughout free agency and the draft.
These are positions to address if the right circumstances present themselves...
The Titans drafted Kevin Byard in the 3rd round last year, who, according to PFF, recorded the second-fewest yards allowed per snap in coverage among safeties in 2017. If his rookie season is any indication, he will be a starter in this league for years to come.
While the Titans other safeties, Da’Norris Searcy and Daimion Stafford, played well enough in a rotation, neither of them were very effective in coverage. Opposing offenses often identified and exploited the Titans weaknesses in coverage across the board (at CB, at ILB, and at S).
Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker are interesting options at the top of the draft. There are a handful of free agents that could serve as stop-gaps, as well as a few mid-round prospects in the draft.
Other Teams with Safety Needs...
After starting safety Chris Conte was benched towards the end of 2016 (and about to become a free agent anyway), and with their other safety Brad McDougald also set to become a free agent, Tampa Bay may look to address the safety position in multiple ways this offseason.
Draft picks: #19, #50, #84, #126, #162, #204, #237. Estimated cap space: $79M
Sports Illustrated named “safety” as Washington’s greatest need this offseason in their team-by-team offseason needs assessment. With multiple starters about to become free agents, the Washington professional football team will likely be adding a safety or two.
Draft picks: #17, #49, #81, #114, #124, #154, #201, #209, #220, #235. Estimated cap space: $64M
Jacksonville is a frequent landing spot for LSU superstud safety Jamal Adams in national mock drafts. They could be prime contenders to snatch Adams away from the Titans, which would be a sad circumstance indeed.
Draft picks: #4, #35, #68, #110, #148, #187, #222. Estimated cap space: $73M
“In a division full of talented quarterbacks, finding help at both cornerback and safety is a must. Jairus Byrd has been a disappointment and will likely find competition waiting for him next year at safety.”
Draft picks: #11, #42, #76, #118, #196, #229. Estimated cap space: $29M
The ESPN article citing the biggest 2017 draft needs for each team called “secondary” the area of greatest concern for the Rams, citing the upcoming departure of strong safety T.J. McDonald in free agency as a reason they could use a safety.
Draft picks: #37, #69, #112, #141, #149, #189, #223, #234. Estimated cap space: $39M
The Ravens have two pretty talented safeties, but they could use some youth. Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta said at the Senior Bowl:
“We’ve got two safeties that are – I don’t want to say older – but they’re getting to that point where they could be considered older. We need a young infusion of talent on the back end, whether it’s at corner or safety. We need guys back there that we feel like can help us on special teams in the short term, but develop into starting-caliber players long term.”
Draft picks: #16, #48, #80, 99, #123, #160, #200. Estimated cap space: $15M
In Matt Miller’s post-Super Bowl 7-round mock draft, he selected Malik Hooker for the Jets with the 6th overall pick. The Jets secondary struggled all season and could use a talent infusion across the board, similar to the Titans’ situation.
Draft picks: #6, #39, #70, #107, #150, #191, #224. Estimated cap space: $20M
Interior Defensive Line
Two-time pro bowler Jurrell Casey is the anchor of the Titans interior D-line, and he has solid contributors around him. But if there was another “Jurrell Casey” somewhere on the Titans defensive line... whether it’s a dominant Nose Tackle (like Dontari Poe or Brandon Williams) or another 3-4 Defensive End to rotate with DaQuan Jones and the stable of young, promising linemen recently drafted by the Titans (you know, the Angelo Blacksons and Austin Johnsons, etc)...
Other Teams with Interior Defensive Line Needs...
For the sake of brevity, let’s just look at teams that need a 3-4 nose tackle...
Sean McDermott is bringing the 4-3 back to Buffalo. Gus Bradley will be converting the freshly-moved Los Angeles Chargers to a 4-3 defense. Gregg Williams will be taking his 4-3 defense to Cleveland. The Broncos may be switching to a 4-3, as might be the case with the San Francisco 49ers. Washington fired their defensive coordinator and appears to be re-implementing the 4-3 system.
That’s a lot of teams moving away from the 3-4, which is good for the Titans and their personnel needs.
The list of teams that I expect to run a 3-4 defense in 2017 is as follows:
ATL, ARZ, BAL, CHI, GB, IND, HOU, KC, LAR, NE, NO, NYJ, PIT, TEN
Although the number is declining, still nearly half the league is running the same defense as the Titans. Even amongst non-3-4 teams, many clubs run multiple fronts to confuse opponents. Some of these teams need nose tackles...
If Dontari Poe walks in free agency, the Chiefs may look to replace him with someone already on the roster, or they could target a mid- to late-round draft prospect to fill the 350-pound void.
- Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are in a similar situation with Brandon Williams as the Chiefs with Poe. They could re-sign him, but if he departs in free agency, there will be a literally massive gap in the base of their defense the team will attempt to fill through free agency and the draft.
Draft picks: #16, #48, #80, 99, #123, #160, #200. Estimated cap space: $15M
This article, called Falcons 2017 free agent targets: DT Brandon Williams, outlines why the Falcons should go after Brandon Williams in free agency. The sad news, Titans fans, is every team that could stand to upgrade their defensive line is going to be wishing for Brandon Williams or Dontari Poe.
I wasn’t sure if nose tackle was a need for the Colts or not, but then on Monday morning, the Colts starting nose tackle David Perry was arrested in Arizona “on suspicion of DUI, theft, robbery, criminal damage and resisting arrest.” So perhaps the Colts will be looking for a new nose tackle...
With the impending retirement of Vince Wilfork, it is likely the Texans will look to add youth and talent to the interior of their defensive line. D.J. Reader, a 5th-round-pick from the 2016 draft, may take over as the starter, but the Texans could look to find some competition and depth at the position.
Listen, you can never have too many pass rushers, plain and simple. Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan combined to form one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL in 2016. Kevin Dodd was drafted in the 2nd round last year. Even so, you can never have too many pass rushers.
Because of that fact, I’m not going to list every team that also needs edge rushers. That list would consist of every team in the NFL. But know that if the opportunity presents itself, the Titans are not going to avoid improving at edge rusher simply because they have Orakpo and Morgan on the roster.