With about two weeks to go before free agency opens, the rumors are starting to arise about where the top players will end up. The Titans enter free agency with just over $46 million in cap space. This is good for 11th in the NFL at this point in the offseason. Tennessee doesn’t have any big name free agents to worry about franchise tagging or extending this year. However, an important offseason is on the horizon.
All-Pro safety Kevin Byard, quarterback Marcus Mariota, cornerback Logan Ryan and running back Derrick Henry are all entering contract years. Therefore, the team can’t afford to make too many big moves. However, they do have the flexibility to be somewhat active in free agency. There are a few holes the team will need to fill before the 2019 season kicks off, either through free agency or the draft. A lot of these gaps will be addressed in April, but there could be some moves made during the free agency frenzy.
1. Edge Rusher
With Brian Orakpo’s retirement and Derrick Morgan’s impending free agency, Tennessee finds themselves thin at pass-rusher. Last year’s second-round pick Harold Landry and undrafted rookie Sharif Finch showed flashes last year, but won’t be enough on the outside. This year is a good year to have an issue at outside linebacker because both the draft class and the free agent class are loaded at the position. The Titans should have no issues finding players to step in right away and pressure the quarterback.
Tennessee will most likely have to use a draft pick on a pass-rusher as well as signing a free agent. Landry looks like he will be a starting caliber edge player, but Finch and Kamalei Correa will not be enough depth. There is a clear-cut option in free agency that general manager Jon Robinson can target, Za’Darius Smith. Smith had 8.5 sacks last year and is just 27 years old. Smith played under Titans’ defensive coordinator Dean Pees for the early part of his career and will be looking to get paid. Tennessee will also remember him for his three sacks of Mariota in Week 6. He will fit perfectly in the system and the Titans should open up the checkbook to have Smith playing opposite Landry on defense.
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Prediction: Titans sign Smith to a 4-year $56 million deal
2. Wide Receiver
The Titans wide receiver room is filled with youth. Tajae Sharpe, Taywan Taylor, and Corey Davis were the three starters for Tennessee last year. All three are 24-years old or younger. The team needs an established veteran who can be a reliable target for Marcus Mariota. That was Rishard Matthews, but he asked for his release from the team early last season. Now, there is no veteran presence to help mentor Tennessee’s young receiving corps. Robinson needs to find that in free agency this offseason.
Edge rusher is the most important overall need, but receiver is the most important one in free agency. Another rookie would not make the impact that a veteran would. The veteran that makes the most sense is Golden Tate. Tate grew up in the Nashville area and just turned 30. He may be looking to settle down and where better to finish your career than your hometown. This seems like a match made in heaven. Tate would be a weapon over the middle of the field who Mariota could rely on and he would also be a solid addition to the locker room. This is the signing that fans should look for during the first few days of free agency.
Prediction: Titans sign Tate to a 3-year $27 million deal
3. Defensive Tackle
Jurrell Casey has been the anchor of the Titans’ defensive line for years. However, the front office has yet to get him any substantial help. Tennessee was in the running for Ndamukong Suh last year before he signed with the Rams. They also signed Sylvester Williams and Bennie Logan in consecutive offseasons, but neither made a significant impact. The Titans need to find someone to stuff the run in the middle of the line alongside Casey and DaQuan Jones.
They aren’t going to find that solution in free agency. If Tennessee signs Tate and Smith, they will elect to save their cap space and find a nose tackle in the draft. The free agency options at defensive tackle are limited beyond expensive options like Grady Jarrett and Sheldon Richardson. Robinson has missed two years in a row on free agent linemen and will try to find someone to fill this hole in April.
Prediction: Titans draft Jerry Tillery from Notre Dame in 2nd Round
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