Unfortunately, with the Super Bowl in the rearview mirror, this NFL season has come to an end. Luckily, we still have many things to discuss and debate leading up to the NFL Combine and Draft. After last season one thing is clear, the Titans still have some work to do. However, that’s the case with every team, here are a few thoughts on what the Titans should do with their defensive free agents.
OLB Erik Walden: Sweep
It will certainly be interesting to see the direction of the team, with newly signed head coach Mike Vrabel. There is indeed a chance that the Titans move from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defensive front. However, regardless of the move, it’s time to move on from Erik Walden. Walden is 32 years old now and will turn 33 for the new season. Walden has been a serviceable backup, however, with the belief that the Titans are going to pursue pass rushers in the draft, there won’t be much need for Walden to return to this team. The Titans can get better value from a younger player for less than Walden’s 2017 salary of 2.75 million.
CB Brice McCain: Sweep
There’s a similar story for Brice McCain. The Titans should be drafting a corner at some point in this year’s draft. Knowing their intent, there does not seem to be much upside at all to offer McCain a new deal. McCain is 31 and going into his 10th season. Although he played in all 16 games for the Titans in 2017, he only started 1 of those. In those 16 games, he managed just 9 tackles and 3 passes defended in 2017. This is a drastic decline from his 31 tackles, 10 passes defended and 2 interceptions that he had in his 16 games in 2016. McCain made 2.2 million in 2017 and a number anywhere near that just does not seem like a good idea for the Titans. Look for them to let McCain walk in free agency.
DE David King: Sweep
David King is a little more intriguing. However, the outcome remains the same. King is only 28 years old and has been with the Titans since the Preseason of 2017. Acquired from the Chiefs for a conditional 7th round pick, King only mustered 3 tackles and 1 sack in 2017. King played in 8 games this season, including the Wildcard win against the Chiefs. While his salary was relatively low at 703k this season, the Titans should still move on. If 2017 was any indication what-so-ever, King isn’t in any plans for the Titans future, expect the Titans to allow King to test out free agency this offseason.
DT DaQuan Jones: Keep
DaQuan Jones, our first keeper so far! Jones would be a perfect get if they can keep him on at a reasonable price. He tore his biceps in week 13 against the Houston Texans in a game that he already had 5 combined tackles and 1.5 sacks. Jones was having a career year, which would have boded very well for his wallet at the end of the season. While the injury is devastating for him, it could be very good for the Titans future. Jones could decide himself that he wants to test Free Agency, but this seems like a perfect spot for a prove it deal. The only thing that would change this would be if the Titans do happen to switch to a 4-3, Jones might find himself as the odd man out in that scenario. Jones is only 26 years old, and was a tremendous run stopper in 2017. I look for them to extend an offer to keep this man around.
ILB Avery Williamson: Keep
Avery Williamson, 25 years old, had a decent year in 2017, his numbers were slightly down from 2016, but he still started all 18 games that the Titans played in. 92 tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles are solid numbers for a young linebacker. However, Williamson is much more of a run stopper than a coverage guy. Going into his 5th year, Williamson could test free agency. He might look for a team where he plays specifically to stop the run. The Titans could look to the draft, or they could stick with second-year linebacker Jayon Brown who also played in all 18 games and would be a much more cost-efficient option. Everything aside, the Titans should strongly consider keeping Williamson around at the right price.
CB Curtis Riley: Keep
Curtis Riley is going into his 4th year in the league and is an ERFA. An exclusive-rights free agent is a player who has two or fewer seasons of service time, and whose contract has expired. These types of players are mostly undrafted free agent rookies. If the Titans choose to offer Riley a one year contract at the league-minimum salary, he has no rights to negotiate with other teams, and either has to sign with the Titans or has to sit out the season. Riley did have an interception this year but only played in 7 totals games, sitting out both playoffs games. Riley is young, familiar with the defense and would be inexpensive. Look for the Titans to keep him around so they can gauge what type of talent he actually is.