The Tennessee Titans have started fresh from the top with new head coach Ken Whisenhunt calling the shots. We have yet to see how his plans trickle down to some big names in Tennessee, but things are in motion with some key re-signings, as well as some non-signings.
Chris Johnson remains the biggest story at the moment, but the Tennessee Titans have a lot more to worry about than what they can get for an overpaid running back that is arguably past his prime. Atop the list of things to do is decide whether or not to draft a quarterback early in the 2014 NFL Draft, and to figure out which pieces need upgrading the most across the offensive line and for Tennessee’s new 3-4 defensive scheme.
Some quality moves have already been made over the first couple weeks of free agency, so let’s dive into what the Titans have been up to, as well as what else they might look to do from now until the draft in May:
Alterraun Verner (Cornerback)
Verner is without a doubt the biggest blow to the Titans in free agency, as he bolted for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers once they cut ties with Darrelle Revis. The secondary was already starting to become an issue even with him on the roster, and now the Titans really need to address it. He was a borderline shutdown corner and will be missed sorely in the pass defense.
Kenny Britt (Wide Receiver)
Britt was once an intimidating presence with loads of upside, but thanks to chronic knee issues and questionable decisions away from the football field, he wore out his welcome in Tennessee. The Titans basically moved on from him last year as they pushed him out of the offense, but it’s still unfortunate that he couldn’t reach his potential with the team. His exit just locks in second-year man Justin Hunter for a bigger role going forward.
Rob Bironas (Kicker)
Bironas was a pure cash cut, as he nailed 25 of 29 field goals a year ago and still has the leg strength to be a factor in the kicking game. Unfortunately he is 36 years old and was going to cost over $3 million in 2014. The Titans won’t be thrilled about the possibility of losing consistency on special teams, but they will likely pursue a younger, cheaper replacement late in this year’s draft.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (Quarterback)
The Beard was nothing more than an average stop-gap, but he performed admirably with Jake Locker being hurt half the year, and even won a few games. He lacks good arm strength and doesn’t always make the best decisions, but he should serve as a solid bridge and mentor with the Houston Texans.
Wesley Woodyard (Linebacker)
New defensive coordinator Ray Horton plans on using some 3-4 packages in his defense, which could be problematic for Tennessee’s current batch of linebackers that are all more accustomed to a base 4-3 setting. Woodyard isn’t necessarily ideal for a 3-4, either, but he’s very athletic and can probably fit any scheme. He had a down year in 2013 that helped the Titans get a bit of a deal, while a change of scenery could allow him to get back to a solid level of play.
Michael Oher (Offensive Tackle)
Oher grew to be a bit of a disappointment in Baltimore, but could actually end up being a very solid (and relatively cheap) signing for Tennessee’s offensive line. The Titans saw improvement on the line the past two seasons, but David Stewart becoming a free agent made their tackle situation worse than ever. They could still bring back Stewart for competition and depth, but as it stands Oher should start and be effective on either side. He just needs to be more consistent.
Dexter McCluster (Wide Receiver / Running Back)
A shifty slot receiver in Kansas City, McCluster was brought on to be more of a running back and receiving specialist out of the backfield. Akin to Danny Woodhead in San Diego, McCluster is expected to assist the Tennessee rushing attack by offering his versatility and explosiveness to the backfield. A versatile performer, McCluster can also help the Titans in the return game.
Keeping the Faith
As big as some losses and additions are, simply holding onto top-level talent is sometimes the biggest move a team can make. The Titans wisely kept one key piece of their secondary intact, as they re-signed punishing safety Bernard Pollard. While not the best in coverage, Pollard is excellent against the run and is a menacing presence in the back of the defense. He’s a veteran leader that the Titans couldn’t afford to part with.
Tennessee also helped themselves out a good deal on their defensive line by keeping Ropati Pitoitua, who ironically should fit much better on the line of a 3-4 than Tennessee’s usual 4-3. A stout run-stuffer with the ability to get after the quarterback, Pitoitua was a much bigger re-signing than many would think.
As the Titans move closer to the draft, they may end up getting a discounted David Stewart, which would really help shore up their offensive line depth. Whether or not that happens, though, fans can expect them to keep adding pieces to their offensive line to help improve their rush offense, as well as their pass protection.
With Chris Johnson on his way out, the Titans could also invest in another running back, although it’s possible they’re content in rolling with Shonn Greene as the main starter and Dexter McCluster as the change of pace option. This duo would end up looking quite similar to the duo of Ryan Mathews and the aforementioned Woodhead that Whisenhunt coached in San Diego last season.
The other key ingredients for the Titans this offseason will be making a decision on Jake Locker and continuing to add new pieces to their 3-4. For now it sounds like Locker will face little to no competition for the starting job in 2014, although it’d be shocking if Tennessee doesn’t draft a passing prospect at some point. Pieces for the 3-4 defense should be fairly versatile but not necessarily specific, as the Titans could really use depth across the board on defense.
This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more NFL football news visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.
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