The Tennessee Titans signed defensive back Joshua Kalu and released safety Rodney Clemons late last week. Kalu represents a familiar face for Titans fans. Kalu spent a portion of three seasons with the Titans from 2018-20. I’m told his familiarity with the Titans (defense and special teams) partially promoted the roster move.
Kalu was to spend the 2021 campaign as a member of the New York Giants. Kalu suffered a torn pectoral muscle in their opening poreseason contest and was placed on season-ending injured reserve. Kalu is now fully healthy and ready to compete in Tennessee.
Kalu is best remembered for blocking a Kansas City Chiefs game-tying field attempt in Week 10 of the 2019 regular season. It was a legendary block, propelling the Titans to clinch a 35-32 upset victory over the Chiefs. The Titans likely don’t make the postseason without that difference-making special teams play. They’d eventually lose to the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.
A reunion with Kalu says a lot about how Titans General Manager Jon Robinson feels about his safety group. Rookie sixth-round selection Theo Jackson and free-agent signing A.J. Moore (who came over from the familiar Houston Texans) are expected to back up Amani Hooker and Kevin Byard. Clemons, who was released to make room for Kalu, was expected to push Jackson and Moore for a final roster spot.
Releasing Clemons, who lacks the special teams prowess Kalu does, but is a better overall defender, indicates the Titans are satisfied with the depth they currently have at the position. It also potentially indicates the Titans felt they didn’t have enough special teams gunners. Robinson has always placed emphasis on signing special teams aces throughout his tenure in Tennessee. He’s signed the likes of Daren Bates, Brynden Trawick and Nick Dzubnar previously for special teams reasons alone. Trenton Cannon, Racey McMath and Chance Campbell are 53-man roster candidates that should offer plenty via special teams.
Kalu isn’t guaranteed a spot on the final 53-man roster, but his familiarity with the coaching staff, playbook, scheme and special teams abilities certainly helps his chances.
This is a difficult business. Clemons was looking forward to competing throughout training camp. I spoke with him just two weeks ago. Clemons felt good about his grasp of the Titans’ defensive playbook, and was looking forward to showcasing the strides he’s made since organized team activities (OTAs). The Titans decided to pursue a reunion with Kalu instead.