This NFL offseason has already been pretty wild. In four separate deals the Browns have traded away a 3rd, two 4ths, two 5ths, a 7th, Danny Shelton, and DeShon Kizer in return for a 3rd, a 4th, a 5th, Tyrod Taylor, Jarvis Landry, and Damarious Randall. Richard Sherman was released by the Seahawks and almost immediately signed with their division rivals in San Francisco. Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters are Rams. Michael Bennett is an Eagle. Robert Quinn is a Dolphin. Alec Ogletree is a Giant. Daryl Worley and Torrey Smith swapped homes. And it sounds like may just be getting started.
Text from league executive: “You think the moves happening lately is crazy? Wait for this week. It’s going to be out of control.”— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) March 11, 2018
There will probably be plenty of Titans news over the next week, but I wanted to take a moment to set the table for where the team stands throughout the roster before the madness starts.
The release of DeMarco Murray, Da’Norris Searcy, Matt Cassel, and Eric Weems leaves the Titans with about $59M worth of cap space for the 2018 season per Spotrac, good for 8th most in the NFL behind the Jets, Browns, Colts, 49ers, Bucs, Bears, and Texans. That should give Jon Robinson plenty of firepower to work with as he begins to shape the 2018 roster. Here is a position by position breakdown of the Titans current roster along with some top free agent targets and the occassional rumor* sprinkled in.
*This time of year is tough to navigate when it comes to what you should or shouldn’t believe. For example, I was completely convinced that Dont’a Hightower was coming here at one point last season based on what I saw from some generally credible people. Reporting on a fluid situation is tough so I feel for some of these guys. A guy really may be “leaning” one way one moment and then completely reverse course the next. Agents and teams also use reporters as pawns in negotiations so buyer beware on all reports for the next couple weeks. If you’re on Twitter, please make sure you look for blue checkmarks and timestamps — and that its not from Jason La Canfora — before retweeting.
Under Contract: Marcus Mariota, Alex Tanney, Tyler Ferguson
The Titans finally parted ways with Matt Cassel last week and will be looking for a new backup for Marcus Mariota in 2018. Neither Tanney or Ferguson are adequate options to step in to that role so I fully expect the team to make at least one move here between free agency, the trade market, and the draft.
A writer in Green Bay claimed the Titans were close to pulling the trigger on a trade for Packers backup QB Brett Hundley on Friday, but backed off late.
A whisper for you. Was just told Hundley to the Titans was supposed to happen but called off by Tenn. Oakland still interested in Hundley for a late draft pick.— Jersey Al - GBP (@JerseyAlGBP) March 10, 2018
That’s interesting in a couple ways. First, seeing them interested in Hundley may tell us a little bit about what the Titans might be looking for in a backup QB. Hundley is an elite athlete and who could at least offer a similar level of mobility and run threat to Mariota. The second interesting thing — if you choose to believe this tweet — is that it makes it sound like the Titans backed off at the last minute. Assuming they had already talked compensation this makes me feel like something better must have come along, either another backup QB option or perhaps even another trade that would require the asset the Titans were offering for Hundley.
Possible Free Agent Options: Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford, Blaine Gabbert, T.J. Yates
Under Contract: Derrick Henry, David Fluellen, Khalfani Muhammad
Derrick Henry is poised to take over the lead spot in the Titans backfield in 2018, but they will need to find another back or two to complement his skill set. The lifespan of NFL running backs and the depth of this draft class at the position make the draft a far more likely route to fill that need than free agency. However, there are a couple interesting options among veteran players.
Again, I’m not sure if this was pure speculation or something based on a source, but the fact that he singled out the Titans is interesting. Duke Johnson would be a tremendous fit with Henry as a receiving back who can also handle a larger workload if Henry were to be injured. Landing Johnson for a late round pick would free the Titans to concentrate (even more) on the defense in the draft.
Dion Lewis is another back that both makes a lot of sense and has already been linked to the Titans.
Report: Jets, Titans, Colts in on Dion Lewis https://t.co/zhLkqSR6rx— Rotoworld Football (@Rotoworld_FB) March 11, 2018
Possible Free Agent Options: Jerick McKinnon, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, Charles Sims, Damien Williams
Under Contract: Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews, Taywan Taylor, Tajae Sharpe, Darius Jennings, Zach Pascal
The Titans have some young talent here, but could still probably use some veteran help. They were reportedly kicking the tires on Jarvis Landry before he was traded to Cleveland so it seems they would agree. I haven’t seen them connected to Sammy Watkins or Allen Robinson yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they got in the mix. The 49ers and Bears are both expected to be very aggressive in the wide receiver market as well.
Among the next tier of possible free agents, Paul Richardson seems poised to leave Seattle.
One thing I do know is I had a ball in Seattle! ✊— Paul Richardson Jr (@prichiejr) March 10, 2018
I would have him as the third best receiver on the market and he may be the best value of the bunch.
Possible Free Agent Options: Allen Robinson, Sammy Watkins, Paul Richardson, Marqise Lee, Taylor Gabriel
Under Contract: Delanie Walker, Jonnu Smith, Luke Stocker, Phillip Supernaw, Tim Semisch
Despite what Todd McShay’s mock drafts would have you believe, the Titans are pretty set at tight end. Yes, Walker is getting older, but he doesn’t appear to be slowing down yet. Smith flashed enough in his rookie year to still be excited about his future. And Stocker just had his 2018 option picked up to return as the team’s primary blocking tight end. I still think there is a pretty good chance that Supernaw is released before his roster bonus is due on March 18th (per Spotrac) as the Titans seem unlikely to carry four tight ends on the 53-man roster in 2018.
Possible Free Agent Options: None likely
Under Contract: Taylor Lewan, Jack Conklin, Ben Jones, Dennis Kelly, Corey Levin, Tyler Marz, Cody Wichmann
Taylor Lewan is almost certain to get his long term extension this offseason, but there is no real rush to get that done right now. The Titans have him under contract with his 5th year option for this year so that is a piece of business that can be worked out this summer if needed. Lewan is fantastic and will be worth every penny.
The guard spot is obviously the big question mark. Quinton Spain is a restricted free agent so the Titans must make him a qualifying offer by March 14th at 4:00 PM Eastern. My guess is they give him a 2nd round tender which should be enough to deter other teams and keep him in Nashville for at least one more year. The team is also reportedly interested in keeping Josh Kline, but it sounds like they haven’t been able to get particularly close on the dollar figure.
Titans have a few FA guard decisions, but the first one centers on starting RG and pending FA Josh Kline. Talks are ongoing, but the two sides are still far apart on a deal. Story: https://t.co/FYHvkCM3ld— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) March 8, 2018
Its not terribly surprising that they aren’t close. Kline is an adequate, maybe even above average starting guard, and I’m sure the Titans are prepared to pay him like one. However, Kline and his agent likely see a guard market that has far more demand than supply ahead of them and a big potential payday. The state of offensive line play around the NFL is atrocious right now and that will make solid players like Kline more valuable than they otherwise would be. We know that Jon Robinson is a disciplined GM who won’t overpay for talent that he doesn’t deem worthy so it will be interesting to see how Kline’s situation plays out.
If Kline doesn’t come back the Titans will likely look to sign another veteran guard to avoid heading in to a draft knowing they need to find a day one starter.
There is also a non-zero chance they could do something at center. I think this is highly unlikely, but Ben Jones had a rough year in 2017 and while I think he will bounce back the Titans could get out of his deal with very little dead money if they chose to do so. John Sullivan who helped key the turnaround of the Rams offensive line in 2017 is a free agent and could be someone to watch if they did decide to move on from Jones.
Potential Free Agent Options: Andrew Norwell, Justin Pugh, Josh Sitton, Jack Mewhort, Johnathan Cooper
Under Contract: Jurrell Casey, Austin Johnson, Sylvester Williams, Karl Klug, Antwaun Woods, Johnny Maxey, Julius Warmsley
The Titans need to add one player to this position group. DaQuan Jones could return. He’s underrated and has been nothing but a great teammate in his four years in Tennessee. I haven’t seen the Titans linked to big name options like Mo Wilkerson or Sheldon Richardson yet. Neither of those guys really seem to fit the Robinson profile, but they are very talented players.
The other guy that could be interesting is Ndamukong Suh. Reports out of Miami seem to be leaning more and more towards a possible release of their dominant defensive tackle.
The Titans would be an interesting fit with Suh’s former position coach, Terrell Williams, now in Nashville in the same position. Pairing Suh with Casey up front would give the Titans one of the most formidable defensive lines in the league.
Under Contract: Brian Orakpo, Derrick Morgan, Kevin Dodd, Aaron Wallace, Josh Carraway, Victor Ochi
This is a position that is far more likely to be addressed via the draft than free agency. However, there is one interesting option that could fit in Tennessee: Shaquil Barrett. Barrett is a restricted free agent so the Broncos can use a tender to restrict his market a bit, but with the Broncos needing to clear as much cap space as possible for a run at Kirk Cousins they may decide to non-tender Barrett. If they place a second round tender on him, that would probably be enough to scare most teams off though.
The other thing to watch for here with regards to contracts is whether or not the Titans decide to extend Orakpo or Morgan this offseason. Both players are on contracts that are set to expire after the season and the team is clearly not ready to replace them. That is something that has to be addressed as soon as possible, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them buy a little time by extending one of these guys before the season starts.
Possible Free Agent Options: Pernell McPhee, Trent Murphy, Shaquil Barrett
Under Contract: Wesley Woodyard, Jayon Brown, Daren Bates, Nate Palmer
The big question here is what the Titans do with Avery Williamson’s spot. There hasn’t been much reported on contract talks with him or lack thereof so it is hard to know what’s the plan right now. I like Williamson, but he is a limited player due to his struggles in coverage so I’m not sure I would be crazy about committing big money to him long term.
Wesley Woodyard is probably back after his career season, but he has no guaranteed money on his 2018 contract so its possible the Titans decide to change course and go young by re-signing Williamson and replacing Woodyard’s spot with Jayon Brown and/or a draft pick. I don’t think that’s likely, but its not impossible if Vrabel and company loved what they saw from Williamson on tape.
If Williamson is not retained the Titans might look to a guy like Demario Davis as a potential three down fit, allowing Woodyard to revert back to his more natural two down role. They could also go with an older player as a bridge to a potential draft pick like Navorro Bowman or Derrick Johnson.
Possible Free Agent Options: Demario Davis, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson, Nigel Bradham
Under Contract: Logan Ryan, Adoree Jackson, LeShaun Sims, Tye Smith, Kalan Reed, Demontre Hurst, Jeremy Boykins
The Titans are definitely sniffing around cornerbacks based on the reporting that is out there right now. They were one of several teams that reached out to Richard Sherman when he was released.
I spoke to Richard Sherman last night, he told me after being informed of his release by the #Seattle Seahawks, he has received preliminary interest from the #49ers, #Titans, #Lions, #Raiders, #Texans, #Bucs and #Packers. https://t.co/QtAB9T3sOt— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) March 10, 2018
And now they have been linked to recently released Giants corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
DRC will be 32 before the 2018 season starts, but he has still been playing at a high level and, like Sherman, is a tall, long corner that would give the Titans a different dimension at corner. If that’s the profile the Titans are looking for — and it would make sense that they are — there are a few other options on the market that would fit. Trumaine Johnson is the best of the bunch, but Rashaan Melvin would be another good choice.
The Titans seem primed to make a move here.
Possible Free Agent Options: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Trumaine Johnson, Rashaan Melvin, Bashaud Breeland, Aaron Colvin
Under Contract: Kevin Byard, Johnathan Cyprien, Brynden Trawick, Denzel Johnson
Searcy’s release makes this position a little more interesting as the Titans are probably going to be looking to add a player to this group. Byard and Cyprien are pretty well locked in as starters so any player they bring in is more likely to be a backup/rotational type player. Eddie Pleasant of the Texans makes a lot of sense for that role given his familiarity with Vrabel and versatility.
Possible Free Agent Options: Eddie Pleasant