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Teair Tart and the Tennessee Titans: Why his contract status deserves your attention

Teair Tart is a restricted free agent. What are his options?

Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee Titans Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

The Tennessee Titans possess 25 free agents (20 unrestricted), including several key starters and role players. We’ve spent the last few weeks previewing large decisions such as the ones that need to be made on Austin Hooper, David Long Jr. and Nate Davis, among various others. Teair Tart is a player that isn’t getting enough attention.

Tart is a restricted free agent (RFA). That means he’s accrued three seasons and played 2022 on an expiring contract. Tart is free to negotiate and sign with any franchise, but Titans general manager Ran Carthon can apply one of various qualifying offers to Tart that protects the franchise. They often come with a right of refusal and/or draft-pick compensation benefits. The Titans must submit their tender to Tart before the new league year begins on March 15.

The RFA tenders are classified as follows, as per NFL.Com:

First-round tender: One-year contract worth the greater of (a) $5.562 million or (b) 110 percent of the player’s prior-year base salary. If Tennessee decides not to match an offer sheet signed with another team, they’d be entitled to a first-round draft pick from the player’s new team. Unless received two days or later prior to the NFL draft, draft compensation for each tender is due in the same league year as the offer sheet is signed.

Second-round tender: One-year contract worth the greater of (a) $3.986 million or (b) 110 percent of the player’s prior-year base salary. Draft-choice compensation: second-round pick.

Original-round tender: One-year contract worth the greater of (a) $2.540 million or (b) 110 percent of the player’s prior-year base salary. Draft-choice compensation: a pick in the round the player was originally drafted in.

Right-of-first-refusal tender: One-year contract worth $2.433 million. Team has the right to match any offer sheet signed with another team, but there is no draft compensation tied to this tender.

Tart was an undrafted free agent, so the original-round tender is unlikely to qualify.

Tart undeniably prefers to sign a multi-year contract extension that secures his future. Tart is coming off a career-best season. He recorded personal-bests in tackles (34), tackles for loss (5.0), quarterback hits (7), pressures (26), hurries (19), sacks (1.5) and pass breakups (6). If there’s any questioning Tart’s preference, he recently switched agents, hiring powerhouse agent Drew Rosenhaus to oversee negotiations. Rosenhaus’ agency represents several high-level clients, including Georgia’s Jalen Carter in the 2023 NFL Draft. Rosenhaus will undeniably seek the best deal possible for Tart while advising him how to move forward.

When searching for similar situations, the Green Bay Packers went through this with Allen Lazard last season. Lazard, a productive player that went undrafted like Tart did, ultimately earned a second-round tender. The second-round tender offered to Lazard was worth approximately $3.98 million. Lazard responded by skipping mandatory minicamp practices. Because Lazard hadn’t officially signed the tender, he wasn’t technically under contract with the Packers. That meant Green Bay couldn’t fine him ($$) for skipping mandatory practices. Lazard also previously skipped voluntary workouts.

The Packers called Lazard’s bluff. He eventually signed the tender and played on an expiring contract in 2023 that underpaid him. Lazard will now reach free agency next week, where he’s expected to sign a multi-year extension elsewhere.

I can see the Titans using a second-round tender on Tart. Tart’s situation isn’t getting enough attention. Perhaps it’s because Derrick Henry, Ryan Tannehill and Jeffery Simmons are dominating the headlines. Tart’s contract represents another conundrum Carthon must sort through.