Jon Robinson and the rest of the Tennessee Titans organization have a big couple of weeks ahead of them.
After this disappointing end to their turbulent, yet rewarding 2021 season, Tennessee has their eyes set on the most exhilarating few weeks on the NFL off-season calendar.
The annual topsy, turvy period in March should be an important for the Titans. They have plenty of roster moves to make — both acquisitions and unfortunate departures — but not a lot of money to make those necessary personnel changes.
They’ve gotten creative so far in terms of creating cap room — releasing Rodger Saffold, Kendall Lamm, and Darrynton Evans — but those notable moves still haven’t been enough to significantly move the needle and give the Titans enough cap room to spend on open market free agents.
With the legal tampering period beginning on Monday at noon eastern, the Titans will be working around the clock to make sure they’ll be able to secure the rights of free agents without the deals being stumped by their cap situation.
Until those additional moves are expected though, it’s best to sit down and refresh the mind about the Titans’ upcoming free agency period, and what you can expect.
So let’s get to it.
As of this very moment, the Titans’ cap space figure stands at roughly $350K.
That’s after the cuts of Rodger Saffold, Darrynton Evans, and Kendall Lamm. As well as the contracts of Harold Landry and Morgan Cox.
Nonetheless, this is the number the Titans — and other interested parties — will be using as reference throughout the remainder of the core free agency period.
Now the Titans’ cap situation can be separated into two categories, top 51 cap space — or working cap space — and cap space that accounts for every single contract on the team.
I don’t want to confuse you, so I won’t dive deeper into the two distinct terms. Just know that the working cap space number is the one you should keep in mind.
However, if you want to learn more about top 51 cap space and other cap space lingo, then I suggest you click here.
Notable expiring contracts
|C Ben Jones (UFA)||LB Jayon Brown (UFA)||K Randy Bullock|
|TE Anthony Firkser (UFA)||LB Rashaan Evans (UFA)|
|TE Geoff Swaim (UFA)||LB Ola Adeniyi (UFA)|
|WR Marcus Johnson (UFA)||DL Kyle Peko (UFA)|
|WR Chester Rogers (UFA)||DB Dane Cruikshank (UFA)|
|TE MyCole Pruitt (UFA)||LB Derick Roberson (UFA)|
|FB Khari Blasingame (RFA)|
|G/OT David Quessenberry (RFA)|
|RB D’Onta Foreman|
|RB Dontrell Hilliard|
Who should the Titans re-sign?
Will the Titans let Ben Jones walk?
He’s been a steady iron man for the Titans — starting every game for the Titans except one since his arrival in 2016 — he’s consistently shown his worth as the leader of the Titans’ offensive line, and this offensive line itself can’t afford too much change at this point in time, with the futures of so many of its key members being in question.
The only reason I could see Titans letting Jones walk free, is if his monetary demands become too expensive. Jones has played well recently, so the financial aspect might become a bit of a hurdle for the Titans. But if it doesn’t, the Titans should wrap up his return quickly.
If the Titans can bring back Foreman at a reasonable price, there should be no hesitation from the Titans’ end to quickly re-sign him.
Foreman was an absolute warrior in relief duty after Derrick Henry went down with his serious foot injury. Of the nine games Foreman last season, he ran for at least 100 yards in three of them. Impressive numbers considering just how limited Tennessee was offensively for a portion of the 2021 season.
He still had some issues with his vision while running the football, but for the most part, Foreman took full advantage of the opportunity he was given.
Because of how he played though, questions have been raised regarding his market and how robust it might be. If Foreman’s market is reasonable — replacement type RB2 reasonable — then the Titans shouldn’t waste any time in re-signing Foreman to a deal.
If it’s more expensive than expected though, Tennessee should let him go.
RB Dontrell Hilliard
Hilliard was the other running back the Titans leaned upon during the absence of Derrick Henry.
He wasn’t the tough, grimy, physical runner than Foreman was in 2021. But his ability to catch out of the backfield — while providing some carries — helped him stay on the field more often than not.
With Henry expected to be the lead back once again in 2022, identifying this team’s RB2 to help spell Henry will be important.
Hilliard’s market won’t be strong, since many portray him like his counterpart in Foreman, a replacement level running back.
Hilliard should be back barring any unforeseen circumstances.
Peko isn’t a household name, but his play in limited spurts last season warrants at least a look at him returning.
If Peko does return, it would be on a relatively short term deal, as it should considering Peko’s fringe status as a reserve defensive linemen.
Cruikshank has been a bit of a project ever since the Titans drafted him in the fifth round of the 2018 draft. His calling card was above average athleticism, but a technical aspect that had yet to connect with the athletic factor of his game.
The veteran defensive back has somewhat found a way to piece it together so far, but injuries and inconsistency haven’t made for Cruikshank’s best overall showing.
He did though, showcase his upside as a man cover cover/safety during last season’s win against the Chiefs. Cruikshank was tasked with slowing down All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce by remaining physical with the star at the line of scrimmage.
It was a tactic that worked, but it was one that also unveiled glimpses of the potential matchup weapon Cruikshank could be if he stayed healthy.
For that reason, the Titans should explore bringing him back. It doesn’t look like Cruikshank’s market will be all that fluid either, so the team could bring him back for a cheaper price if they wanted to.
The former UDFA kicked off his career an edge rusher with too little muscle, and too little refinement in the technical area of his game.
But he’s continued to develop year after year, and has set himself up to potentially receive a little bit of a raise on the open market. That raise could however price the Titans out, especially if they want to allocate their financial resources elsewhere to address other needs on the roster.
However, if Roberson’s price range remains within a manageable threshold, the Titans should waste zero time in bringing him back.
Adeniyi wasn’t expected to do as much as he did in 2021.
Signed to primarily play special teams, Adeniyi received a big break early in the 2021 season. With the outside linebacker group dealing with a rash of injuries, Adeniyi secured the prime opportunity to play a prime amount of defensive snaps.
He then rewarded the Titans’ staff by recording the first 2.5 sacks of his career, all of which came in back to back games against the Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts.
Adeniyi didn’t receive much in the way of playing time after the injury situation at edge rusher improved. But he did continue to contribute on special teams and stayed ready defensively for the time being.
He’s a textbook professional, proven depth piece, and a player that represents what the Titans want to be. Adeniyi should be brought back and depended on to provide the same play he showed in 2021.
After a period in which it seemed the Titans couldn’t settle on a long term option at kicker, Bullock came in and brought the much needed stability the kicking game needed.
To put that into perspective, here’s a bit of a nugget for you. Bullock’s 26 made field goals in 2021 were the most made in a single season by a Titans kicker since 2018, when Ryan Succop also made 26 field goals.
That’s at least two seasons without a kicker matching the previous high, which before Bullock, only came close to being surpassed in 2020 when Stephen Gostkowski made 18 field goals.
The Titans don’t want to go through any headache inducing kicking problems any time soon, so bringing Bullock seems like the best course of action.
That is, if Bullock’s salary demands aren’t too grotesque.
Who should the Titans let go?
After flirting with other teams last off-season, Brown seemed ready to depart for greener pastures elsewhere.
But he decided to return to Tennessee on a short term deal, in hopes of playing his way into a bigger contract the following off-season.
Unluckily for him, after a injury plagued 2021 season, Brown won’t come close to receiving the big payday he envisioned himself receiving.
To top it off, Brown’s exit from Tennessee appears likely as well.
It’s unfortunate for Brown, a fan favorite who has developed a bond with the fans and the city. But with David Long Jr. and Zach Cunningham destined to partner at linebacker for the foreseeable future, and Monty Rice more than likely receiving more snaps in 2022, a significant role won’t be waiting for Brown.
The Titans should let Brown go, and fill out the last reserve inside linebacker spot with a special teams/coverage specialist to round out the group
Evans shouldn’t return in any shape or form.
The former first round pick has been a massive disappointment in Tennessee. He’s constantly been singled out for his egregious mistakes on the field, most of which have so easy to point out you could consider them unavoidable eye sores.
Evans is a good person, and it appears he’s a good teammate, but his play on the field has justified his exit from the only organization he’s ever known.
After Jonnu Smith’s exit, Firkser was expected to take on more of a role in the offense, and in part, produce to justify his promotion.
But despite an increase in snaps, Firkser’s production remained at the same pedestrian levels they were at when he was Smith’s understudy.
He’s not a good blocker — which already diminishes his maximum output with the team — and he dealt with some drop issues in 2021 as well.
For a team that desperately needs upgrades at the tight end spot — and receiver as well — moving on from Firkser to chase cheaper, younger, and more talented options feels like a route the Titans will take.
Johnson was a pre-season darling for the Titans. He earned praise from his coaches and peers for his work ethic, as well as his consistency throughout a heated depth receiver battle on the roster.
He was expected to contribute early on, primarily as an extra receiver whenever the Titans opted to roll with more than two receivers on the field. But he wasn’t able to do so due to a hamstring injury, one that landed him on injured reserve to start the regular season.
Once Johnson came back, he stood out after a few key performances, the most notable one being his 100 yard receiving game against the New Orleans Saints.
But soon after his breakout game, Johnson landed on injured reserve once again, and the culprit was the same hamstring injury that delayed the start of his season just a few months prior.
Now as a free agent, it remains to be seen what his future holds. He’s not a gamebreaking receiver that teams will be lining up to sign. But he’s a hard worker that’s found a way to survive a number of roster crunches, dating back to his time with the Colts.
However, the Titans can find better — as well as younger and cheaper — talent elsewhere, without the injury concerns Johnson has.
For that reason, the best course of action for the team is to let Johnson walk, and replace him through the draft if possible.
Rogers was another Colts castoff that found a way to latch onto the Titans’ roster.
Unlike Johnson however, Rogers found a way to consistently contribute, whether it came as a receiver or as the primary punt returner.
However, like his counterpart Marcus Johnson, his status as a Titan is in limbo due to the team being in need of an influx on talent at receiver.
Because of that, Rogers could find himself looking for a new home soon. He isn’t a shoe in to be shunned by Tennessee, but his lack of explosiveness and impact makes him dispensable.
Swaim has never been billed as a tight end that can overwhelm defenses with talent. He isn’t a supreme athlete, he’s not a good receiver, and his reliability as a pure pass catcher can be questionable at times.
What he does have a calling for though, is being able to survive as a blocking tight end. Throughout the 2021 season, Swaim was called upon to be a focal point in the Titans’ blocking schemes, both as a run and pass blocker.
But unfortunately for Swaim, he was inconsistent as a blocker, with his forgettable mistakes standing out more than a few times both during live games and on tape.
The Titans have to, and can do better, when it comes to filling the tight end room with talent. The first step is weeding out the players that you don’t need, and Swaim is absolutely one of those players the Titans truly do not need.
Blasingame has been a mainstay with the Titans since the 2019 season.
But with Tory Carter emerging as a better fullback option this past season, Blasingame could be on the way out.
The former Vanderbilt standout has made some nice plays for the Titans, but his return just doesn’t make sense with Carter being the presumed starter moving forward.
Quessenberry fought and won the Titans’ starting right tackle job last summer.
For a few weeks, the decision to name him one of the five starters up front along the offensive line seemed like a good one. He was arguably the team’s best performing offensive linemen during the early portion of the season. Which was a period in which the rest of the team’s line was playing some uncharacteristically bad football.
But as the season went on, Quessenberry’s weaknesses began to show, and his performance suffered as a result.
The Titans can do better talent wise at right tackle, either by way of free agency, the trade market, or the more likelier avenue, the draft.
If the team wants to bring Quessenberry back at a depth option, that wouldn’t count as a bad or unnecessary move. But he shouldn’t be the starter in 2022.
Initially, Pruitt wasn’t on the active roster when the season began last year.
He had just been released by the San Francisco 49ers, and was being kept on the Titans’ practice squad until the team decided they needed his services.
He maintained his previous role with the team, avid blocker with minimal output as a receiver. But that was about it, which isn’t surprising due to Pruitt being a blocking tight end by nature.
What makes his future concerning — especially for Pruitt himself — is the gruesome leg injury he suffered against the Miami Dolphins in week 17 of the 2021 season.
The injury knocked Pruitt out for the rest of the year, while further clouding his future in Tennessee at the same time. The Titans could elect to bring him back, since his blocking has remained sturdy and has been relied upon a great deal.
But the Titans are in a position to let him walk and chase other options. That’s a scenario many people think will play out, and it’s one that should play out.
Which positions can be upgraded
This is the sweet spot for the Titans.
All three primary tight end options from last season will be hitting free agency. Which in turn will leave the Titans will some decisions to make as far as incoming players go.
There will be some tight ends available at a discount rate for the team in free agency, something that should appeal to the Titans deeply since they’d probably desire another tight end to be acquired in the draft.
With Rodger Saffold no longer in the fold, the Titans suddenly have a void at a position that’s been so well managed over the last few seasons.
Tennessee could opt to remain in house to find Saffold’s replacement, with young lineman Aaron Brewer being the leader to secure the now vacant spot.
Options on the market could be expensive, so this spot could be infused with talent from the draft.
2021 starter David Quessenberry is scheduled to become a restricted free agent.
It’s unclear if the Titans will tender Quessenberry, but if they do, he’d become an unrestricted free agent once the new league year begins.
If the Titans want to dip into the free agent market for a right tackle replacement, a few inexpensive options will be available. Including former Titan Dennis Kelly, who’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.
This spot really depends on what happens with Ben Jones.
Jones is scheduled to become a free agent this upcoming Wednesday, and there’s no word if the Titans are interested in shelling out big bucks to retain his services.
If Jones isn’t retained, there won’t be a ton of cheap, yet talented options to choose from. In fact, there might not be any since consistent offensive line play is so coveted these days.
Look for this spot to be addressed in the draft if Jones does indeed depart.
Aside from A.J. Brown and Julio Jones, the receiver room doesn’t possess reliable talent.
You should expect the Titans to address this area in the draft, but some cheap free agent options will be available on the market if the Titans want to rely on proven veteran experience, instead of unknown rookie commodities.
6 Free agents Tennessee should be interested in
TE C.J. Uzomah
Uzomah fits what the Titans want from their tight ends.
He’s a fairly decent blocker, but has emerged as a safe receiving option over the last two seasons, especially in 2021.
Spotrac currently has his market value at $8.2M a year, which would be expensive for the Titans if their current cap figure holds.
However, if the team finds a way to free up extra room, adding Uzomah would be a pretty nice piece of business from Jon Robinson and the rest of the Titans’ front office.
TE Gerald Everett
Everett would be more of a discount selection for the Titans at tight end. He’s not the best blocker, but he has an impressive amount of athleticism for the position.
He hasn’t produced the most gaudy of statistics, and he’s not someone that can carry the position with his play.
But if you pair him up with a rookie tight end that can contribute early — something that’s hard to come by — then the idea of adding Everett doesn’t sound all that bad.
TE Hayden Hurst
If the Titans want to gamble on talent and athleticism, but still want to bring in an extra tight end with upside as insurance, then bringing in Hayden Hurst could be the right move.
Hurst is a willing blocker, a receiver with an added boost of athleticism to boot, and has experience in the type of scheme the Titans want to run due to playing in Arthur Smith’s offense in 2021.
Plus he’d likely be relatively cheap, something that’s likely tied to his down year statistically in 2021.
Broadway Sports Media’s own Justin Melo took a bit of a dive into the Titans potentially signing Hurst recently, so you should check that out if you want a more detailed look into the prospect of the Titans adding Hurst.
TE O.J. Howard
One of the few names that’s been connected to the Titans consistently over the last few years has been O.J. Howard.
The Titans’ love for Howard extends back to 2018, when Howard met with the Titans during the pre-draft process, and set himself up as a legit contender to be selected by the Titans in the 1st round.
Well, at least that’s what was on the rumor mill.
Fast forward to last off-season, the baseless rumors started to fly when Howard was seen working out with Derrick Henry. Just as trade rumors swirled around Howard and as well as the Titans’ outspoken need for a tight end after Jonnu Smith left to join the New England Patriots.
These two parties — Howard and the Titans — have been connected numerous times. The question now is, will the connection finally be fulfilled?
Howard isn’t a dominant blocker, but he still can pose a threat towards defenses as a pass catcher. It’s what got him drafted so high back in 2018, and it’s why he still garners interested league wide regardless of how underwhelming his statistics have looked like.
He should be cheap as well, which is another bonus as the Titans look to improve the roster with minimal cap space.
WR Rashard Higgins
Higgins was a free agent receiver that was linked to the Titans last off-season, due to the status of then free agent receiver Corey Davis.
This off-season, Titans could make a run at him. Higgins is a willing blocker, evidenced by the Cleveland Browns’ arsenal of receivers that have been encouraged to do so, but he’s also a receiver that possesses just enough speed to stretch the field and put pressure on opposing secondaries.
Higgins fits as a depth receiver, and could benefit in Tennessee if Todd Downing continues to rely on packages that employ three or more receivers.
Plus he’s a cheap, young option that can pay dividends if the circumstances play out.
C Brian Allen
If the Titans let Ben Jones test the market and deem him return price to be too steep, then Brian Allen could be a fine replacement.
Allen has spent his entire career playing in Sean McVay’s system — the system Matt LaFleur ran in 2018 with the Titans, a system that’s been adapted and is still in use to this day by Tennessee — so the “fit” aspect wouldn’t be a concern.
He wouldn’t be cheap, since both OverTheCap and Spotrac have his value at $4M per year at least. But if the Titans can create the room to fit his contract, then they’d have a younger option at center that knows the background of the Titans’ offense.
Others (if price range is okay): WR Keelan Cole, TE Maxx Williams, TE Tyler Conklin
The Titans have needs, but what’s unknown is how much money will they be able to free up to make those moves, and how many moves they’ll be able to mak
What is known however, is the fact that Jon Robinson and the rest of the front office have to come away from this free agency period with multiple positions filled at the bare minimum.
Tight end has to be one, with left guard, right tackle, and center representing the last few spots that need to be addressed.
Receiver could be addressed as well, but if the offensive line search becomes the primary focus after tight end, then receiver could be a position that could be looked at primarily in the draft.
We don’t know how this free agency period is going to pan out for the Titans. Either way, the next few weeks will be busy with plenty of news, rumors, and moves flying around the league.