Center: There are four good options to help the Titans out next year as they start to rebuild this offensive line. I have ranked the four options by production, age, and projected salary. Andre James comes in first with the best blend of production, talent, salary. Cushenberry is a good option, but if the salary predictions are right, I’d rather have James.
All evaluations and projected salaries provided from PFF
James clearly earned a lot of respect and trust from the previous Raiders regime, given that the team was willing to trade away franchise pillar Rodney Hudson to the Arizona Cardinals to have James supplant him at center.
The move has proven to be a smart one. James is patient and a clean fit in pass protection, able to mirror the shiftier interior pass-rushers and generally withstand power rushes, save for a few matchups with the true brute forces on the inside.
Contract Projection: Three years, $24 million ($8 million per year), $13.33 million total guaranteed
Cushenberry was named the starting center as a rookie in 2020 and struggled early, as many players in the same situation have in recent years, with the added responsibility of calling out protections. Three different coaching staffs in his four years didn’t exactly bring stability, either, but Cushenberry is having a career year in 2023 and has grown as a run blocker while consistently showing up as one of the better pass-protecting centers in the NFL over the last few seasons.
Cushenberry uses heavy hands and a good anchor to win against a growing list of quality pass-rushers on the interior, bolstering his value more each year. He may be served better in a gap-heavy rushing scheme, but any limitations as a run blocker in space are vastly outweighed by his pass-blocking strength. Penalties could stand to come down a bit, but that’s nitpicking an ascending young player who looks the part of a centerpiece of an offensive line for years to come.
Contract Projection: Four years, $57.1 million ($14.275 million per year), $34.25 million total guaranteed
Biadasz’s extensive starting experience dating back to his Wisconsin days shows up with clean technique and good hand usage, but he’s prone to getting driven off the ball by power rushers. He could help a young quarterback adjust to the NFL by calling out protections, and he reacts well to twists and stunts, but he’ll cause the pocket to collapse at times, even if he stays in front of rushers.
As a run blocker, Biadasz executes combo blocks well — though it helps to work alongside Zack Martin and Tyler Smith. Prospective teams could do a lot worse in adding a mid-tier center with football smarts.
Contract Projection: Three years, $21 million ($7 million per year), $11 million total guaranteed
Shelton has proven over the past two seasons that he is capable of playing guard in addition to center after earning the starting right guard job in 2022 and holding up very well as a pass protector at both spots throughout the season. He can also effectively run block in zone or gap concepts, proven amid the Rams’ shift to a gap-heavy scheme in 2023. The positional versatility on the interior and Shelton’s agility could make him a fit for many teams.
Contract Projection: Three years, $16 million ($5.33 million), $8.5 million