Plus Minus Titans offseason moves
The Titans have allowed some players to leave the team whether it be their contract ran out or their release. The Titans have added players in free agency and re-signed some also.
This is an exercise requested by a reader named Marcia. (Thanks for the suggestion) It is not always cut and dry; replace person A with person B. I will try anyway.
Nate Palmer was re-signed and, for this exercise, replaces himself. He provides depth as he is a former starting NFL linebacker. For the Titans, he mainly plays special teams. He is a backup inside linebacker. Karl Klug, again, same with this exercise. He replaces himself.
Eric Weems replaces Marc Mariani as the Titans return man. Weems plays all phases of special teams. Mariani didn’t always contribute on kickoff and punt teams. This is an upgrade in participation. This is also an upgrade in production as Weems’ stats are better. Sidenote-Mariani has been a nice guy and a fan favorite. This is the business side of football.
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Johnathan Cyprien is a strong safety. The Titans did not re-sign strong safety Daimion Stafford. I would peg Stafford as average in run defense and a bit above average in coverage. Cyprien is rated extraordinarily high in run defense and especially low in pass coverage. As a starter, I would prefer the more well-rounded Stafford. Neither was a starter and DaNorris Searcy is still on the Titans roster. [sidenote- I have to take back a previous sentiment that the Titans would not pay two strong safeties very large salaries and a Searcy move must be pending. As per Spotrac, Cyprien will only make roughly $4 million this year. That’s workable. Clever work by Jon Robinson there.] So as a reserve, the situation changes. Dick Lebeau can employ his sure tackler to impact the run game. If the flow of the game dictates, it’s also possible Cyprien can play some inside linebacker on occasion. Probably better worded; Lebeau has been known to get three safeties on the field at the same time. Stafford was sometimes the Titans “dime-backer” and technically this is a hole right now. I would imagine the Titans can fill this in camp fairly easily. As a reserve, I think this is a considerable upgrade. I hope the Titans staff can improve Cyprien’s coverage skills as well.
Anthony Fasano re-joined the Miami Dolphins. The Titans re-signed Phillip Supernaw shortly after. Supernaw has been a decent tight end that contributes largely on special teams and in three tight-end sets. The Titans went from excellent blocking tight end Craig Stevens to Anthony Fasano, whom PFF rated the top blocking tight end. I feel there is a hole here still. Dennis Kelly was brought in as the third tight end at times and, theoretically, he can block like a tight end, but he has “no hands.” This removes the dual threat altogether. This is an important piece to Mularkey’s smashmouth offense. They must have an efficient blocking tight end. The Titans need to add a blocking tight end or work with Supernaw to improve his blocking.
Antwan Valentino Blake was a very fast special teams player with “guns” for arms. He was supposed to be somewhat of an extra as a cornerback. As the season rolled on, he had to contribute. His cornerback play was “feast or famine.” His special teams play was solid. He made a few dopey plays where he pointed in the wrong direction and did “this N that” which he probably wishes he could undo. His special teams tackling and speed to the chase down the ball was fine. Those few plays don’t define his 2016 season.
The Titans signed strong safety Brynden Trawick to be their special teams gunner and replace Blake…to a degree. Blake is probably a better athlete, but Trawick comes with buckets of respect for his special teams work.
The Titans were not effective stopping runs up the middle. They released nose tackle Al Woods. They signed Denver’s Sylvester Williams. Williams had a “down” season last year and the Broncos did not exercise their fifth-year-option to retain him. That’s not a good sign, but his prior play was quite effective. Essentially Woods has been let go from the Titans twice in two years. The “writing was on the wall” here. Williams is an upgrade, but I still contend that the Titans have two second-year players that could steal this spot in camp.
Jason McCourty was the Titans starting cornerback and their highest paid player. There’s some discussion whether he was benched or sat injured late in the season. He wasn’t effective late and that’s the summary of it. His release was projected by many, but it has not happened. He is a Titan. The opposite starting corner, Perrish Cox, was released last season. Rookie LeShaun Sims got “his feet wet” and then played pretty well as the season closed. Logan Ryan replaces someone here. The large contract denotes he is a starter. He is an upgrade over Cox and McCourty. It’s not necessarily player A replacing player B, but it’s a significant upgrade.
Have not been replaced
Antonio Andrews was a former return man, feature back, then third string running back. He has not been replaced and will likely be replaced in the draft. David Fluellen has been on the Titans practice squad and could probably step into this role just fine.
Sean Spence was an inside linebacker that suffered from lapses in coverage. He was a big hitter that could grab attention with an impressive wallop, but overall the Titans needed an upgrade. Aaron Wallace was a rookie last year that closed the season playing well. The Titans “flirted” with Dont’a Hightower, but didn’t sign him as a free agent. The Titans could go with Wallace in 2017. They could still sign a free agent linebacker or add one of the top ones in the draft. There is probably still some movement here.
Rashad Johnson wasn’t re-signed and hasn’t signed elsewhere. He really needs to be re-signed by the Titans. He’s a veteran backup, with starting experience, that knows the system, and is cheap. Kevin Byard was an impressive rookie in 2016. If the Titans draft another rookie to backup Byard, that’s quite a bit of inexperience. I think re-signing Johnson is the move to make here. In 2018, Byard will have more experience and they can draft a backup. To be a complete hypocrite- this draft is loaded with talent at safety. I would not begrudge adding a gem from this draft. Curtis Riley was a backup cornerback that was released. The following offseason he returned to develop into a backup safety. I’d rather the rookie draft choice and Johnson than rookie draft choice and Riley.
Brian Schwenke signed with the Colts. He was a former starter at center and a backup guard. He wasn’t that impressive as a center, but did fill in well as a guard for a few games last year. After the Titans picked up Josh Kline, (grrr I suppose) theoretically Chance Warmack was their backup guard. Warmack got hurt, so this wasn’t an issue. To play this replace part A with part B game, I suppose he was their backup guard. Byron Bell was injured himself early last offseason. The backup lineman could play four spots along the line. Josue Matias got injured also and that triggered a trade where the Titans acquired Kelly. Despite reported transactions, Matias is still on the team. Matias should be healed up and in camp. That’s one backup lineman. They could take a look at a healed up Bell. Mularkey seemed to appreciate him like a swiss-army knife. The Titans still need a backup center. For a guy that has never played in a regular season game, Matias is, yet again, oddly a considerable part of the offensive line unit. Without him, the Titans have serious deficiencies as backups to their offensive line.
Kendall Wright hasn’t been “that guy” for a few years. He was a 1000 yard wide receiver in 2013, but many have held him in high regard ever since. He caught 29 passes for 416 yards in 2016. The Titans have not replaced him. They may or may not. Harry Douglas can grab 29 passes in a season and replace him.
Common thought, hasn’t happened
It’s been a common offseason sentiment that the Titans would add a big play maker wide receiver. The team would sign someone that can take the lid off a defense. They would sign a gazelle with baseball mitts for hands. You name it, it’s been said. This would be a significant improvement for the offense. This was not essential. In this “exotic smashmouth” offense, Rishard Matthews, Tajae Sharpe, and Delanie Walker proved to be sufficient in 2016. They still could draft a player with gaudy measurables, but please remember this is a run first, run often, offense.
The most significant hole at this time is replacing Fasano/Stevens with another excellent blocking tight end.