The Tennessee Titans didn’t have much money to spend in free agency this season, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have swung for the fences.
New GM Ran Carthon and HC Mike Vrabel could have cut more veterans or kicked cap hits down the road to open up some money in free agency if they wanted to. However, that doesn’t look like it was ever part of their plan.
Instead of trying to lock in one blue-chip starter, the Tennessee Titans front office took a different approach.
Carthon’s first offseason in charge was filled with lower-middle-tier free agency signings. Guys like Andre Dillard, Arden Key, Daniel Brunskill, and Azeez Al-Shaair all fit in that group of free agents that aren’t household names, but they can still be good starters for a team.
In fact, if you listened to their introductory press conference with the Tennessee Titans, it sounds like nearly everyone in that group was lured in by the opportunity to have the inside track on a starting job.
What has free agency done for the Tennessee Titans?
As much as Mike Vrabel might be in denial, this is going to be a rebuilding season. It would take a miracle for the Tennessee Titans to win a Super Bowl this year, so there is no reason to make any long-term commitments to players that might not be the answers to the questions you have on the roster.
In free agency, any big-name player is going to command a deal that forces you to commit to them for 4+ years because they want financial security in case they get injured or don’t perform as well as they did at their last stop.
Instead of signing a player like that, Carthon stuck to short-term deals or deals that the team can get out of quickly and painlessly if things don’t work out.
In terms of dead money down the road, the only player that seems like they are guaranteed for 2+ years is Arden Key. Other than that it is pretty easy to get out of the other contracts if they don’t already expire after one season.
Again, that doesn’t mean that Andre Dillard, Azeez Al-Shaair, and Daniel Brunskill are just rentals. A better way to think about it is that these are the guys who are getting auditions to be the starters on a much more complete and competitive roster in 2024.
Another note on this free agent class is that you should include the RFA tenders that the team placed on Aaron Brewer and Teair Tart. All of those moves together have filled nearly every hole on the roster with someone who has started before in the NFL (except for tight end and receiver where players still need to be added).
Many people are sticking to their pre-free agency ideas about the Titans’ draft strategies and they want them to take a left tackle in the first round. That is absolutely a possibility, but Ran Carthon has put them in a position where they aren’t forced to draft an offensive lineman if the right guy isn’t there.
Let’s say that Paris Johnson is drafted inside the top-8 and the Titans don’t love any of the other players as “franchise left tackle” caliber prospects. Free agency has given Mike Vrabel and Ran Carthon the flexibility to grab a guy like Jaxon Smith-Njigba or Quentin Johnston if they decide that they would rather add another pass-catching weapon.
The short version of this is, the Titans’ free agency results didn’t give the team any long-term guarantees, but it did give them the flexibility to attack the draft how they want. Not only that, but it gives them the right of first refusal on several players with a good chance to outperform their contracts.
Is it exciting? No, but it might just be the safest way to rebuild this roster.