The Jake Locker situation is a frustrating case. He had turned the corner as a passer in the NFL before losing his season to a foot injury. Unfortunately, the time has come to accept the fact that Locker will never be a 16 game starter in the league. When you consider his contract situation, it becomes evident that Jake will likely not be with the Titans in 2015. The final year of his rookie deal expires this season, and the Titans will have an option worth approximately 15 million to decide upon. It’s possible that he could return with a new deal if he can stay healthy in 2014.
As for the other Quarterbacks, Ryan Fitzpatrick is nothing more than a spot starter in the NFL. He’s got one more year left on his deal, so look for him to be the backup once again. The Titans recently signed Tyler Wilson to a three year deal. The former Arkansas Razorback and Oakland Raider was highly touted by some in the Draft community and should get a chance to truly develop in the upcoming years.
Chris Johnson appears to be on his way out of Nashville, per a report from NFL Network earlier in the season . Johnson’s demise has been well documented over the past few years, so this comes as no surprise. Shonn Greene looked good in a limited role this season, but he’s not the answer long term. Jackie Battle is nothing more than an insurance policy and it remains to be seen if he will be back next season. Expect the Running Back position to be addressed sometime in the middle rounds of May’s NFL Draft. It’s a proven fact that you can get starters later in the Draft. There will be plenty of options after the first round.
The receiver position seems to be one of the most stable spots for the Titans. Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter will lead the Titans into what appears to be a promising future. The Kenny Britt era went south quickly, resulting in a messy and very public divorce. After those three, the situation gets a bit murky. Nate Washington has done nothing but produce during his time in Nashville, but he may very well be a “cap casualty” when it’s all said and done. Damian Williams, Michael Preston, and Marc Mariani will all have to fight for their jobs if they want to return in 2014.
Delanie Walker was very solid in his first year in Nashville. He proved to be one of the most reliable targets on the team. However, after Walker there are some major question marks. Craig Stevens could hardly find the field this season and could easily be cut this offseason. I don’t think anyone is sure of what the Titans have in Taylor Thompson at this point. The former Defensive End at SMU hasn’t quite put it all together yet. A receiving Tight End could be higher on the Titans’ shopping list than you think.
What has been a stable position for several years is now a bit unclear. The Titans can get out of both Michael Roos and David Stewart’s contracts right now if they want to do so, but it is believed that Roos will return. Stewart on the other hand is likely to hit the market. He’s been banged up for the past two years and can’t seem to stay healthy all of the sudden. Byron Stingily played well in relief, but I don’t think he’s viewed as the long term answer there. Mike Otto is set to hit the market as well, so look for two new faces at Offensive Tackle in 2014.
Interior Offensive Line
Don’t expect much change here. Andy Levitre, Chance Warmack, and Brian Schwenke are the future of the Titans interior line. There will most likely be some turnover behind these three for depth reasons as Chris Spencer and Rob Turner are set to hit the market.
With the move to a 3-4 front, the entire front seven will have a different look in 2014. The Titans will have to decide who fits into their new scheme. One that I am worried about is Derrick Morgan. He’s the prototypical 4-3 Defensive End; right in between a 3-4 rush linebacker and a “5-Tech” Defensive End. He may be asked to bulk up this offseason. Ropati Pitoitua and Karl Klug are perfect fits to play in the 3-4. I would expect both of them back. The situation to watch is Jurrell Casey. He’s a prototypical 4-3 Defensive Tackle, but he may be asked to move to Defensive End. He isn’t cut out to play Nose Tackle, but he doesn’t have an ideal frame to play a 5-tech role either.
The Titans will have to find a long term solution for Nose Tackle, but for the time being Sammie Hill would occupy that position. Hill fits the build of a Nose Tackle, weighing in just south of 300 pounds. The Titans will have to get at least one more big bodied space eater to back Hill up.
Here’s where the 3-4 defense gets fun. Outside Linebacker will now be where most of your pass rush is generated. Nobody is happier about this move than Akeem Ayers. Ayers fits the 3-4 front much better than he did the 4-3 and will now be free to rush the passer more often. I’ve seen several people ask about Kamerion Wimbley. He does fit this scheme, but in the end I think he will be too expensive to keep. I think the Titans will be actively searching for another stand up pass rusher to pair with Ayers. They may feel like Derrick Morgan can be that guy, but I think he’s better off with a hand in the dirt. This will be a major position of need come free agency and draft time.
This is another major area of need. Colin McCarthy hasn’t progressed as much as we originally thought. Moises Fokou has been a nice “band-aid” guy, but he isn’t a long term solution. Here’s where Zach Brown and Zaviar Gooden come in. The new staff will have to decide where to place these two. It may end up being at inside linebacker. As rangy as these two players are, I think they will end up at least getting consideration for playing in the middle of the defense. If they don’t feel like they can handle the responsibilities of the middle, look for the Titans to address this position via free agency or the draft.
Jason McCourty may be one of the more underrated corners in the NFL. He signed a five year extension in 2012 and will be the Titans number one corner once again in 2014. The biggest contract situation on the defensive side of the ball is that of Alterraun Verner’s. Verner was the best player in the Titans’ secondary in 2013 and is looking to cash in big on his 2 nd contract. If the Titans were to let Verner walk, chances are they would let 3 rd year man Coty Sensabaugh and 2 nd year man Blidi Wreh-Wilson battle for the spot in camp.
Michael Griffin bounced back from a dismal 2012 season, anchoring one of the more impressive pass defenses in the NFL. The Titans struck gold in finding Bernard Pollard, who played outstanding in the second half of the season. Pollard was on a one year deal, but now looks to be a prime franchise tag candidate. George Wilson was a nice addition as a role player this season and it looks as if he’ll return for 2014. Daimon Stafford was a nice special teamer in his rookie season. The 2013 7 th round pick looks to have found a home here, backing up Michael Griffin.