Details of the contract have not yet been released, but the addition of Compton — who met with the team over a week ago — gives the Titans an experienced inside linebacker to add to the mix after Avery Williamson’s departure last month.
Compton came in to the league as an undersized prospect out of Nebraska at just under 6’-1” tall and 230 pounds, going undrafted in 2013 before catching on as a UDFA in Washington.
While his size held him back, his movement skills were what gave him a chance in the league. His pro day testing results from Nebraska featured a 4.54 second 40 time, a 6.86 second 3 cone, and a 4.20 second short shuttle, all excellent for an inside linebacker. All of those times would’ve ranked top 5 in the 2018 inside linebacker class at the combine.
After spending 2013 on the Redskins practice squad, Compton stuck on the 53-man roster in 2014 as a backup linebacker/special teamer. He ended up getting 5 starts that season, filling in for an injured Perry Riley. The next season he returned again as a reserve initially before his play as an injury fill in — this time for Keenan Robinson, another ILB the Titans talked to in free agency — earned him the full time starting role.
“I think Will Compton has cemented a role as a starter on this football team based on his play, yes,” Coach Jay Gruden said Thursday.
“Keenan is a good football player,” Gruden said of the move. “When he gets healthy, we’ll find a spot for him also. But Compton is playing outstanding.”
He would go on to start the final 10 regular season games and Washington’s 35-18 loss in the first round of the playoffs that year, accumulating 93 total tackles, 1 sack, and 1 interception.
In 2016, Compton entered the year as the full-time starter and put together the best year of his career. He finished with 103 total tackles, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble while serving as a defensive captain for the Redskins.
The Redskins brought him back as a restricted free agent for the 2017 season, but also added Zach Brown creating more competition at inside linebacker for Compton and fellow 2016 starter Mason Foster. After a camp battle, Foster and Brown began the season as the starters with Compton settling for a reserve role. When Foster went on IR with a separated shoulder, Compton stepped back in as a starter, but lasted just 2 games before a Lisfranc sprain in his foot put him on IR as well.
Compton is described by one Redskins writer as “solid but not spectacular” and that’s the general feeling you get from reading about his time in Washington. His PFF scores from the three seasons where he saw significant snaps (2014-2016) were 44.2, 35.2, and 46.2 so they were not fans of his work. Among their detractions from his game they listed too many missed tackles as an issue, which is something that seems to be a common refrain with him.
On the plus side with Compton is that he should be an upgrade from Avery Williamson in coverage. Nobody is going to confuse him for Luke Kuechly, but he’s more fluid in space than what we are used to seeing here. He is also known to be a smart player, good at getting the defense aligned correctly pre-snap and knowing his responsibilities. He fits the identity of the type of people Jon Robinson and Mike Vrabel are looking to add as Titans. His leadership skills are on display in the video below as he challenges Su’a Cravens’ effort during practice.
Will Compton called out his work ethic and Su’a didn’t do nothing. He backed down. He caved. Enjoy Broncos.— 70 (@karl_diesel) March 29, 2018
When you look at Compton in light of the recent signings of guards Kevin Pamphile and Xavier Su’a-Filo, you can start to see what Jon Robinson may be doing here. He’s filling the roster holes with players who have starting experience and can offer a floor for the position heading in to 2018. Nobody is going to be doing backflips if any of these guys are full-time starters next year, but they won’t kill you if they have to play. Like Pamphile, Compton’s deal is just for one year, meaning he’s essentially guaranteed nothing once camp starts so there is very little risk. It also gives the team additional flexibility in the draft as they know they don’t have to add an immediate starter at these spots. If they head in to 2018 with Wesley Woodyard, Jayon Brown, Will Compton, Nate Palmer, and Daren Bates as the inside linebacker group, they won’t have gotten better, but they won’t really have gotten worse either. Especially when you consider the possible second year jump from Brown.
As for what the inside linebacker rotation will look like, I think its far too early to tell. The Titans are still very likely to take an inside linebacker at some point in the draft. How high they take him and who that guy is will tell us a lot more about their immediate plans.