Note: This story was originally published at 12:25 p.m. CT and has since been updated.
UPDATE: The Titans have announced via the team’s website and social media channels more roster moves to correspond with the news we received earlier. As always, Jon Robinson continues to churn the back end of the roster.
In addition to quarterback Trevor Siemian and tight end Geoff Swaim, the Titans have added two other players who worked out for the team on Monday: running back Marcus Marshall and wide receiver Krishawn Hogan.
Third-year running back Dalyn Dawkins, second-year tight end Parker Hesse, and undrafted free agent rookie Kyle Williams have been released to make room for the new additions.
The Tennessee Titans have added veteran quarterback Trevor Siemian to the roster per his agent and ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
In a corresponding move, the team is also releasing 7th round pick Cole McDonald.
Let’s start with Siemian here. The 6′-3″, 220-pounder has four seasons of experience after being selected in the 7th round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Broncos. He started 24 games for Denver in 2016 and 2017, going 13-11 while completing 59.3% of passes for 5,686 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 24 interceptions.
Siemian spent last season with the Jets, getting one start while Sam Darnold was out with mono, but that start was cut short due to a season-ending ankle injury suffered after just six pass attempts.
Siemian is not an exciting talent. He’s a relatively pedestrian backup quarterback, but the starting experience is valuable, especially in a season where teams are just one positive COVID test away from having their backup suddenly elevated to the starting lineup. It’s also valuable that much of his experience in Denver was in Gary Kubiak’s wide-zone offense, a scheme very similar to what the Titans run now.
He’s competent and experienced enough to step in and not lose you a football game. He’s also not going to take a game over, but that’s not a realistic expectation for a backup QB. I certainly believe that Siemian gives them a better chance to win a game than Logan Woodside in 2020.
Now, let’s talk about the Cole McDonald part of this. It’s pretty shocking to see the team so quickly move on from a guy who was always going to be a developmental quarterback. Nobody should have expected that McDonald would be a finished product at the start of his first NFL training camp, but apparently the team has seen something that they didn’t like with their 7th round pick and no longer feel like he’s worthy of the time investment of having him on the roster.
This is now the second late round quarterback that has quickly washed out of Tennessee during the Jon Robinson era, joining 2018 6th-rounder Luke Falk as developmental projects who failed to launch. Late round quarterbacks who pan out are extremely rare in the modern NFL, but you’d at least like to see these guys get through their first training camp before getting kicked to the curb.
We will likely never know what went wrong with McDonald in Tennessee, but it’s disappointing for those — like me — who were excited to see what the athletic, aggressive passer might be able to develop into.
This is also bad news for Logan Woodside, who almost certainly will slide to QB3 on the roster. That may or may not include a spot on the 53-man roster. I suspect that the Titans — and other NFL teams for that matter — may be more inclined to keep three quarterbacks this year because of the looming threat of COVID, so maybe that helps Woodside, who I still believe the team likes quite a bit.
In non-QB news, the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson also reported that the Titans have agreed to terms with veteran tight end Geoff Swaim.
Swaim is a five-year NFL veteran, having spent his first four seasons with the Cowboys before joining the Jaguars as a free agent signing last offseason. However, his lone season in Jacksonville was cut short as he played just six games before going on injured reserve. He was released from the second year of his two-year, $6.6-million deal earlier this offseason.
At 6′-4″ and 260 pounds, the former Texas Longhorn is more of an inline blocking tight end than a dynamic pass catcher. In 2017, he graded out as PFF’s third-best run-blocking tight end in the NFL, however the last two years have seen his performance drop off from that level. He’s a decent pass catcher, but as his 48 catches, 401 yards, and 1 touchdown career stat line would suggest, that’s not the reason he’s on the roster.
Swaim’s size is unique in the Titans tight end room, where Jonnu Smith (6′-3″, 248 lbs), Anthony Firkser (6′-2″, 246 lbs), and MyCole Pruitt (6′-2″, 245 lbs) all check-in well under the NFL average for the position.
My assumption is that the team will end up keeping four tight ends considering Tennessee used 12 personnel (1 back, 2 tight ends) on 29% of plays, more frequently than all but two teams in 2019. They used 13 personnel (1 back, 3 tight ends) on 10% of plays, the highest rate in the league.
Expect Swaim to push Pruitt for his role as the team’s primary blocking tight end. This move makes the route to a roster spot for second year tight end Parker Hesse and rookie UDFA Tommy Hudson much, much tougher.