Aug 30, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Derek Schouman (83) is tackled by Tennessee Titans defensive back Alterraun Verner (20) during the first half at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
What does the future hold for Tennessee Titans defensive back Alterraun Verner? When the Titans drafted Blidi Wreh-Wilson with the No. 70 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, Wreh-Wilson was expected to compete with Tommie Campbell and Coty Sensabaugh in a three-way battle at outside cornerback. This would allow Verner to return to doing what he does best: playing nickelback.
Maybe that plan will unfold during training camp, however, Sensabaugh has been the player who has seen significant playing time at nickelback. Verner was getting reps at free safety. While the Titans are expecting Pro Bowl-caliber play from Michael Griffin, they have no proven depth behind him. Bernard Pollard and George Wilson are both considered as strong safeties.
There are concerns about whether Verner fits into a new defensive scheme that emphasizes more man-to-man press coverages. In an interview with Titan Sized contributor Carlos Beard, Verner admits that he prefers zone defenses. Regardless, he doesn’t think it’ll have a significant impact on his playmaking ability.
What do all of these experiments and scheme changes mean? Are they permanent, temporary, or will Verner play a “jack-of-all-trades” role where he uses his versatility and intelligence to confuse opposing offenses? Even Verner was uncertain about whether his position change would last beyond mini camp.
Here’s something that isn’t unknown: Verner is entering a contract year. After the 2013-14 season, the Titans must decide on whether they’ll re-sign or use a franchise tag on their fourth-year defensive back. Additionally, management could let him test the free-agent market.
Verner has won over most fans and media because of his openness toward doing interviews with various fan blogs (e.g. Music City Miracles) and the way he conducts himself on and off the field. Titan Sized readers voted Verner as the franchise’s best draft pick from the 2010 NFL Draft. With 46 votes, Verner earned a grade of 92.07 (A). Nobody gave him lower than a B (80-84).
Music City Miracles contributor Josh Gunnels gave his estimation for how much cap space the Titans would have after they sign all of their draft picks. His total came to approximately $6 million. Assuming John Abraham doesn’t join the party, $6 million may give them enough flexibility for one lucrative extension.
Put Verner toward the top of the list for any type of early extension. Kenny Britt must prove that he can remain healthy and stay out of trouble. There’s no guarantee that Fernando Velasco will beat out Brian Schwenke for a starting job. Even if he does, will he keep it throughout the entire regular season?
If the Titans have enough extra money to where they could extend Verner, should they do it? Does Verner have anything to prove? Should they try to extend him before his value skyrockets from a breakout season (aka sign him while he’s affordable)? Before the 2012-13 opener, the Titans signed Jason McCourty to a six-year, $44.26 million contract.
The Titans could try to save money with their other young cornerbacks. However, Cortland Finnegan should remind them that nickelbacks—and versatile defensive backs—aren’t easy to replace.