By John Glennon
In the coming weeks, the Titans could find themselves bidding farewell to a receiver who’s piled up close to 3,000 career yards; a six-year starter in the middle of the defensive line; a tight end with 16 career TD catches; and a three-down inside linebacker.
We don’t know for sure yet whether those players – Corey Davis, DaQuan Jones, Jonnu Smith and Jayon Brown – will be pulling on different jerseys next season, as the Titans could re-sign any of them before or after free agency starts March 17.
But if they all wind up signing elsewhere, along with more recent Titans additions like Jadeveon Clowney and Desmond King, they will represent one of the most impactful free-agent departure crops in this franchise’s history.
In fact, it may well be the most impactful free-agent group ever to move on from the Titans, according to Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value measurement metric.
Pro Football Reference uses a stat-based formula to give every NFL player an Approximate Value for every season – the higher the Approximate Value, the better the season. For instance, Derrick Henry’s AV last season was 17, A.J. Brown’s was 13, Jeffery Simmons’ was seven, etc.
So by compiling the Approximate Values for every season a player has been with the Titans, we can get a numeric estimate on what each has meant to this franchise during his tenure here.
The numbers used in this specific comparison only take into account what these players did while with the Titans, not during their overall careers. So the departure of a player like Clowney – who’s played just one season for the Titans – wouldn’t have nearly the impact of a long-term valuable player like Jones.
Bottom line: The Titans’ current crop of pending unrestricted free agents – which stands at a whopping 19 players – has produced a combined Approximate Value of 137. The greatest Approximate Value of any previous group of Titans free agents that left – and signed elsewhere before training camp – was 116, and that happened last year.
Here’s a look at the five highest-valued departing free-agent classes in the Titans era, as well as the 10 highest-valued departing individual free agents in the Titans era. Again, the numbers come from Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value.
Five Highest-Valued Departing Free-Agent Classes in Titans Era*
*2021 players could still be re-signed
The free-agent class: 2021
Number of pending Titans UFAs: 19
Pro Football Reference Approximate Value for UFAs: 137
Highest Approximate Values in the class: DL DaQuan Jones (43), WR Corey Davis (26), LB Jayon Brown (23), TE Jonnu Smith (12).
Comments: Jones never posted splashy stats, which is typical for a nose tackle. But his AV was steady over his six years as a starter – never lower than five nor higher than eight for a single season. Davis’ career year in 2020 led to his best season-ending AV (11), as was also the case for Smith (five). None of the many other pending unrestricted free agents this year had a career Titans AV of five or more, but Ty Sambrailo, Jack Crawford and Daren Bates were all close with four. Jadeveon Clowney had an AV of three in 2021.