Sometimes it is hard to step back and look at the whole picture when Jon Robinson is doing Jon Robinson things, but we need to talk about why the Tennessee Titans, signed veteran defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker.
There must be a reason why the Titans chose to sign Walker while there are other positions on the team where a veteran might make more sense based on conventional wisdom.
For example, since the conclusion of the 2022 NFL Draft fans have had their eyes on potential receivers or interior offensive linemen that the Tennessee Titans might bring into the fold. Not to beat a dead horse here, but you don’t have to dig too deep to find fans and writers wondering whether players like Ereck Flowers and Will Fuller would make a big impact on this offense.
So the question is, why was Walker worth his contract worth slightly more than $1 million when that money could have been put towards another position? Here is the answer that makes the most sense.
The Tennessee Titans view DeMarcus Walker as a starter…kinda
Walker wasn’t just a random veteran signed for the sake of depth, that isn’t how the Titans view veterans at this point in the offseason.
I believe that the Tennessee Titans view Walker as a starter on running downs and since the Indianapolis Colts were starting to sniff around, they brought Walker into the fold for a reasonable price.
More specifically on his role, I think they want him to develop into a player who can help make Denico Autry more of a designated pass rusher than an every-down defender.
There is a good reason why the Titans should want Autry on the sidelines on running downs even though he can hold his own as a run defender, and that is because he is a much more effective pass rusher when he is rested. Look at how much more effective he was last year when the Tennessee Titans played him less often on run downs:
Average stat line in games where Autry was a run defender on 15+ snaps:
5 games: 0.2 sacks, 0 QB hits, 1.6 QB hurries
Average stat line in games where Autry was a run defender on 14> snaps:
13 games: 0.87 sacks, 0.62 QB hits, 2.7 QB hurries
The Titans’ front is deep enough where there aren’t a lot of other reasons why a move like this would make sense. Let’s take away Walker along with Bud Dupree, Harold Landry, Denico Autry, and Jeffery Simmons, even then you still have Ola Adeniyi, Rashad Weaver, Teair Tart, and Naquan Jones.
While Mike Vrabel gave his standard “I like versatility” quote (below) when he was asked about Walker’s role, it is clear that at 280 lb., his body type matches up more with Autry’s than defensive tackles like Teair Tart and Naquan Jones.
"“I think (his potential) role is he’s shown versatility throughout his career,” Vrabel said. “I liked him all the way back to Florida State when I was in Houston. (We’re) trying to figure out where he may fit, whether that be standing up – he’s played multiple positions across the front on the edge, inside. He plays with great effort, which I appreciated."
Jon Robinson and Mike Vrabel must have seen Walker and viewed him as a sub-package starter that they could grab at a cheap price that makes them better against the run and against the pass.
The alternative is that the Titans’ brain trust spent money that they could be using on a receiver or lineman and spent it on a veteran defender that they didn’t have a plan for. If you know anything about those two then you know that line of thinking doesn’t hold water, and it is much more likely that Walker is going to be the 2022 version of someone like Jack Crawford.