Welcome to Music City Miracles’ Tennessee Titans 2023 NFL Free Agency Primer! Free agency is set to begin on March 15th, but the Titans are able to re-sign their own free agents before then. New general manager Ran Carthon and head coach Mike Vrabel have already begun collaborating on their vision for the 2023 Titans. Carthon and Vrabel will collaborate on various sizable decisions.
The Titans currently possess 25 free agents (20 unrestricted), including several key starters and role players. Over the next few weeks, we’ll take an in-depth look at each free agent and provide arguments for why the Titans should, or shouldn’t re-sign that player. We’ll also offer our final verdict and a prediction to go along with our analysis.
Today, we’re starting with inside linebacker David Long Jr. Long is arguably Tennessee’s biggest and most notable free agent. The decision won’t be easy.
Name: David Long Jr.
Position: Inside linebacker
Current Age: 26 (Long will turn 27 just weeks into the 2023 campaign)
Why the Titans should re-sign Long: Long entered the 2022 campaign as a penciled-in starter at inside linebacker. Long responded to an increased role and responsibilities by posting career-highs in tackles (86) and tackles for loss (7) while matching a previous personal-best in interceptions (2). Long also recorded an impressive five pass breakups.
The Titans don’t have another linebacker like Long on the roster. He’s their coverage specialist in third-and-obvious situations. The Titans are expected to release fellow linebacker Zach Cunningham this offseason. Monty Rice and Jack Gibbens are more like-for-like replacements for Cunningham’s skill set. Ideally, the Titans would be pairing a Rice/Gibbens-type with a Long-type next season.
Why the Titans should let Long walk: Long continues to struggle with various soft-tissue injuries. Long was limited to 12 regular-season appearances with recurring hamstring injuries. Over the previous two campaigns, Long has played in 22 of a possible 34 games. That’s a difficult pill to swallow for a free-agent linebacker that may command upwards of $8-to-10 million annually.
Vrabel volunteered Long’s name during his end-of-year press conference when discussing injuries and repeat soft-tissue offenders. Vrabel clearly believes Long (and Kristian Fulton) must do more to avoid suffering recurring hamstring/groin injuries. Vrabel’s assessment further clouded Long’s future with the Titans.
Final verdict: Projecting Long’s future is difficult. On one hand, Long is Tennessee’s most athletic and important linebacker. Long posted a season-long coverage grade of 62.9, per Pro Football Focus. On the other hand, the Titans may be hesitant to commit big-time dollars to what they’ve self-described as an injury-prone player.
Prediction: Long plays elsewhere in 2023 despite my personal preferences. Vrabel’s comments regarding “repeat offenders” could signal the end for Long in Tennessee. The Titans are in a difficult position against the salary cap and could opt against re-signing Long.
What are your thoughts? Should the Titans re-sign Long? Leave your opinion in the comments.