by Mario Granata
The Tennessee Titans have secured one of the top 2 picks in the NFL Draft for the second consecutive season. They have played in a division that is wide open, but against teams that are on the rise with a wealth of young talent. By drafting Marcus Mariota last season they look to make a run at a wide open AFC South, but to do so they will need to make some additions to an already athletic roster. They have the funds to do so but do they have the right man calling the shots to make the next step?
Head Coach: Mike Mularkey
Career Record: 18-39
Offensive Coordinator: Terry Robiskie
30th YPG, 25th Pass, 25th Run
Defensive Coordinator: Dick LeBeau
12th YPG, 7th Pass, 18th Run
Not very much went right for the Tennessee Titans in 2015 as they dealt with a rash of injuries all over the field, and couldn’t make a run at a wide open AFC South. It has been mentioned many times on Hashtag Sports that the Titans are “Bills South” and no greater example of that could be said then their Head Coach Mike Mularkey. Mularkey took over for Ken Whisenhunt who was unceremoniously fired after a 1-6 start. From a talent standpoint, the Titans should make some noise in 2016…if their players can stay on the field.
The Titans aren’t in “Cap Jail” at the moment, but if they wanted to start restructuring, they could start at the top with their highest paid player CB Jason McCourty. McCourty will count nearly 9 million against the cap in 2016 and another 7 million in 2017. He only appeared in 4 games for the Titans and doesn’t pose to be injury prone, after only missing one game since 2011 prior to the 2015 season. The former 6th round draft pick will be 30 when his contract expires, so the best option for the Titans is to let him play it out. Check out the details of his contract below. (Courtesy of Over the Cap)
If Dick LeBeau wants to start fresh with a new secondary, he could cut McCourty and having just released S Michael Griffin and save 13.5 million against the cap, while only taking a 3.6 million dollar dead money bomb, but smart money says let him play it out.
The 2016 free agents for the Tennessee Titans doesn’t read like a ‘Who’s Who’ but rather a ‘Who Cares’ of top flight talent. LB Zach Brown is the only notable one on the list having played in 16 games, starting 5, and amassing 77 tackles along the way. The real test for the Titans will be in 2017 when RG Chance Warmack, TE Delanie Walker and WRs Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter are all FA. Spoiler Alert for the On the Clock 2017 Titans, they will resign 2 out of those 4.
Anyone who has watched the draft knows that there is no ‘sure thing’ when it comes to who will be taken, especially 1st overall. In years past, there was no doubt, which player was going to be selected, but with the Titans this season, it’s anyone’s guess. If history has any part in whom Tennessee selects, Titans fans should worry. In his two years in Buffalo, Mularkey selected WR Lee Evans (1st-13th overall) in 2004 and WR Roscoe Parrish (2nd-55th overall) in 2005. (The Bills didn’t have a 1st round selection in 2005). In his lone season as head coach in Jacksonville in 2014, the Jags drafted WR Justin Blackmon (1st-5th overall). With Hunter, Wright and Dorial Green-Beckham, it’s unlikely he will travel down that path, but you never know.
All kidding aside, the pick that will benefit the Titans the most will be OT Leremy Tunsil from Ole Miss. A traditional run blocker who needs to improve his width at the next level, Tunsil would be ideal to put next to Warmack giving the Titans 3 1st-round lineman to protect Marcus Mariota and open holes for David Cobb. Given what the Jaguars have been able to put together, the strides the Colts have made, and the well-known terror that the Texans can pose, having 3 solid 1st round selections to protect the franchise is the way to go. Everyone knows the first step to making the playoffs is taking care of the Division, and with Tunsil, the Titans can be one step closer.
It seems that the Titans have a few holes to fill and they have a very nice cushion currently as they are a projected 40 million dollars under the cap. Perhaps a reunion with 31-year old CB William Gay could be in the cards if he fails to sign in Pittsburgh, his familiarity with LeBeau can be a possibility. With the Titans finishing 12th overall defensively, 7th against the pass and 18th against the run, they might look to add some big bodies in the middle in the form of DT Haloti Ngata (Lions) or DT Terrance Knighton (Redskins) or having parted ways with Griffin, they could look to make a splash by taking S Eric Berry (Chiefs) or CB Greg Toler (Colts) but those moves seem unlikely. The Titans aren’t exactly in ‘win now’ mode, but given what happened to Whisenhunt last season, you can bet Mularkey knows the clock is ticking to make something happen in Tennessee.
Quick Guide to the Rookie Wage Scale
On the Clock: 2015 Tennessee Titans