Is Daren Bates the Tennessee Titans vet most likely to get cut?

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 14: Daren Bates #53 of the Tennessee Titans confronts the referee during the third quarter against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on October 14, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 14: Daren Bates #53 of the Tennessee Titans confronts the referee during the third quarter against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on October 14, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Is the Tennessee Titans lone remaining special teams signing on the chopping block?

The Tennessee Titans 2017 free agency class was such a mixed bag of success.

In that class the Titans signed maybe the best slot cornerback in the NFL in Logan Ryan who has been exceptional in every phase despite not tallying an interception yet. His ability to lock down opposing safety blankets and come up big in the box has been huge for the Titans (76 tackles, 4 sacks, 4 TFLs, and 5 QB hits last year alone).

Johnathan Cyprien was a mixed bag because when he played he was really solid as a true old school, thumping safety. Injuries derailed his time with the Titans which is a shame, but you can’t call that a bad signing.

There were also some misses including nose tackle Sylvester Williams. It isn’t so much that he was bad, but he definitely wasn’t the answer that the Titans hoped for at NT which ultimately led to signing Bennie Logan last year and drafting Jeffery Simmons this year.

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The two underrated signing from that class were Brynden Trawick and Daren Bates who came over from Oakland as a tandem of special teams aces.

While the two didn’t transform the Titans into a top-10 special teams unit immediately, by the end of last year it seemed like Tennessee fans no longer had to hold their breath on every kickoff or punt for fear of another long return or touchdown.

Unfortunately, special teams players have a strange shelf life. If you can’t find a way to contribute on offense or defense, you have to be a truly elite special teams player to stick on a roster.

With Trawick’s deal up this offseason, it is fair to ask if the influx of athletic and productive rookies over the last three years may push Daren Bates out as well.

That idea is exactly what ESPN’s Turron Davenport suggested in this article, saying:

"“Bates is a special-teams ace who can play inside linebacker in a pinch if called upon. The Titans recently drafted linebacker David Long Jr., a younger, less expensive option who can play special teams and was a productive inside ‘backer at West Virginia (110 tackles, 16 for loss, three sacks). Bates had an off-the-field incident (he was recently charged with possession of marijuana), which drew the ire of coach Mike Vrabel, who also raved about Long’s ability to play in space against the spread offenses in the Big 12.”"

Davenport is absolutely right. Over the past three years the Titans have added the following players either with draft picks, in UDFA or off of other practice squads:

-David Long Jr.

-Amani Hooker

-D’Andre Walker

-Derick Roberson

Dane Cruikshank

Sharif Finch

Kenneth Durden

Joshua Kalu

Tye Smith

Those are just the players that project to either be rotational players this year or pure special teams players. Behind those nine names you have guys like Darius Jennings who is should be the primary return man as well as a coverage player.

That is a lot of young, defensive talent that has the upside to eventually earn a job in a sub package or as an outright starter on defense.

According to OTC, cutting Bates would lead to nearly $2 million in immediate cap relief. If the Titans want to help themselves as much as possible for the upcoming offseason, it does theoretically make sense to cut Bates and to throw an extra $2 million onto the Kevin Byard extension up front.

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The upcoming offseason is going to take a lot of finesse from a cap standpoint. Logan Ryan, Kevin Byard, Jack Conklin/Dennis Kelly, Marcus Mariota, and Derrick Henry are probably going to cost somewhere near a combined $60 million.

Assuming the cap moves up to $200 million next year, the will have to cut DaQuan Jones, Dion Lewis and Cam Wake just to get to $62 million in cap space.

So, unless there is a surprising rise in  the cap or unless the Titans somehow find a way to get some other players moved or taking less money, they are going to be in a touchy situation.

An extra $2 million now could mean that you get to keep Cameron Wake and still end up at nearly $60 million in space.

It would be rough because it does seem like Bates is a player that sparks a lot of energy on the Titans special teams units, but all options need to be considered and sometimes the NFL’s ugly business side takes over.

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