Free agency is slowed, but shouldn’t be dead for the Tennessee Titans.
This is a big season for the Tennessee Titans and for the first time in a long time it feels like a winning season might not be enough.
Marcus Mariota is going to need to put up big stats, the EDGEs need to get to the quarterback more and with so many players in contract years everyone is fighting for that next big deal.
With all of that on the horizon, is this roster really as good as it could get? I think you have to look at it objectively and say that the answer is no.
There are two spots that really stick out to me as question marks: right guard and 1-tech.
The hope is that Nate Davis is going to take over the starting job this year, but I just don’t know that you want to put all your chips there given the big jump he is going to have to make.
By nearly all accounts, Tennessee Titans GM Jon Robinson added a potential All-Pro in Jeffery Simmons but he isn’t going to be able to play for at least 10 games this year.
Even if you factor in the value of Jeffery Simmons, the front office clearly felt like DT was such a need that the Titans felt they needed to address it over taking their highest rated WR, Montez Sweat, interior OL, or any other positions.
So can they walk into 2019 with the same guys set to play 80% of the snaps? No.
Scanning free agency there were five names that popped out as guys that would start. Behind them was a few fringe guys, but when I cut it down to the guys that I believe would either be a huge upgrade or a near lock to start the total came out to a nice, clean five.
1. Ndamukong Suh, DT
I’m not going to spend a ton of time on this. If I were in the Titans front office this deal would have been done or at least heavily discussed while we were on the clock picking for Jeffery Simmons.
Is there a better idea than using Suh as a short term replacement for Simmons? The rookie gets to see first hand how a dominant 1-tech plays and practices. As he grows he can get tips on pass rushing from Jurrell Casey and tips on how to stop the run and beat centers from Suh.
It would probably cost the Titans north of $12 million, but if they could get him on a one year deal it would be a win for everyone.
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2. Brandon Fusco, RG
I am a little bit surprised that more hasn’t been made of Fusco getting cut. He was injured last year, but it wasn’t like he has huge injury concerns. In fact, he might still be in Atlanta if they didn’t draft Chris Lindstrom in the first round.
He is a great fit for a ZBS on paper and if he had come out this year he would have been one of the more athletic linemen at the combine. His short area quickness is really amazing, with a 7.29 3-cone and a 4.43 short shuttle. Those numbers would have been best and 2nd best among all offensive linemen, only losing to Andre Dillard in the short shuttle.
For the Titans, they have the bodies to be a “B-” unit on the interior of the offensive line and I think that is enough to make a big difference this year. However, if they want to bump that up a little bit there are some centers and right guards out there who probably could make a difference.
Fusco still isn’t quite 30 and he has been a solid starter at both left and right guard over the past few years. If the Titans don’t take a chance on him, someone will and they will be rewarded with a guy whose floor is one of the best backup guards in the NFL.
3. John Sullivan, C
Sullivan is probably nearly done with his career, but he hasn’t retired which makes me think that maybe he has a year or two left. When healthy, he is one of the best centers in football which is somewhere the Titans could improve.
Sullivan came to L.A. with Rodger Saffold and played in the high powered Rams offense for two years. He knows exactly how the protections are designed and could be another coach on the offensive line, much like Saffold has described himself.
That connection and understanding would be huge for the cohesion of this offensive line as they try to master this zone blocking based offense.
Then the Titans can end up starting the season with Saffold at left guard, Sullivan at center and Ben Jones at right guard. Lewan is obviously the left tackle and Dennis Kelly and Jack Conklin can battle it out for right tackle, leaving the other as a nice option as a swing tackle.
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4. Corey Liuget, DT
Liuget has a lower ceiling than Suh, but would serve a similar purpose. The Titans need a stopgap 1-tech until Jeffery Simmons is healthy, and Liuget has a nice balance of run stuffing ability and a little bit of a pass rush.
If the Titans decide that grabbing a superstar isn’t the right way to go, then they could pass on Suh and get a discount in Liuget.
5. Stefen Wisniewski, OL
Wisniewski is the only offensive lineman on this list that I think could start in two different scenarios. If the Titans truly believe that Nate Davis is the starter at right guard, then he could upgrade the center position or at least give them more lateral agility there.
If Tennessee thinks that Ben Jones is the guy to start at center because of his leadership and experience with the other offensive linemen, then he could give the Titans a veteran player who has actually started on an offensive line before in the NFL.
Last year he played every position on the offensive line except for right tackle. That flexibility is huge for earning a spot on the gameday roster, so if at any point you feel like Nate Davis deserves to start or if you want to change the configuration of the offense he gives you that option.