The Titans made their second free agency move signing Delanie Walker, previously of the 49ers, shortly after locking up Andy Levitre. Their previous plan was to tag TE Jared Cook for about $6.5M and feed the offense through him. Cook had heard that before, and got out of jail by threatening suit over where he lined up as a receiver more often than a TE. With only Craig Stevens on the roster and a young developing Taylor Thompson, the Titans were forced to make a veteran move in free agency.
Delanie Walker is often referred to as “The Swiss Army Knife” due to his ability to a little bit of everything. What the Titans signed was a football player and less of a pass catching TE. Here are his stats up through last year:
What’s not shown here is his special teams play. He can return the ball on kickoffs if need be, and is a consistent tackler on coverage units as well. But also not shown here are the drops. He had 7 drops on just 39 targets last year, while making 21 catches. This is a bit worrisome when the goal is to give Jake Locker steady consistent plays to move the chains. What’s nice is his eye popping 16.4 avg. though.
Walker is best described as playing the “joker” position as a TE, which means he can line up anywhere. Fullback, H-back, inline TE, or split out to the slot. He even has enough speed to create mismatches and line up outside the numbers. He’s an above average blocker, has above average speed for his size, and has a high IQ on the football field.
Walker really took off when Kaepernick took over in San Fransisco as well, getting open as plays broke down and were extended. He could also end up being a great outlet in emergency situations for Jake Locker.
Delanie is often referred to as playing second fiddle to Vernon Davis, and therefor unable to shine to his fullest ability. But it looks to me that there is a risk of him being a jack of all trades and master of none.
I like the signing because the Titans identified who they wanted and made it happen. Delanie Walker is not the same type of TE as Jared Cook at all. He can do a lot of things that Cook couldn’t, but he also can’t stretch the field the way Cook could. I just hope that “versatile” isn’t just another word for “potential”. The fans have had enough of that. It’s now incumbent upon Dowell Loggains to turn all this versatility into production.
What This Really Means
By targeting Delanie Walker as their top free agent TE, combined with the Levitre and Greene signing, it’s clear the Titans are formulating a new style of offense under Dowell Loggains. Munchak and Webster both know that their most expensive and explosive play maker is in Chris Johnson. They also know that all their cards are riding on Jake Locker developing this coming year. Paving the way for CJ, simplifying the offense for Jake and getting manageable down and distance situations is the goal. Losing 2 yards on first down and then trying to throw it deep two plays in a row are no longer the game plan. The Titans are going back to being a running team.
Also, by Delanie not being a “down the field” guy, I think the Titans are showing more faith in Taylor Thompson than perhaps the general public has. He’s now the vertical threat at the position. It also shows that they are sticking with what they’ve said about working more underneath routes something Walker could excel at, as well as something Cook wasn’t great at.
You can find me on Twitter @gunnelsj