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[Off-season 2023] Tennessee Titans: find the line, while staying the course

The 2022 season has just ended, and as of March 13, the 2023 campaign will open its doors. DNA of Sports therefore takes the opportunity to offer you an overview of the different franchises during the off-season. Which players to keep and cut? Which free agent to extend? Which rookies to watch? Here are some ideas, franchise by franchise. In the spotlight today, the Tennessee Titans.

Casually, the Titans were one of the big disappointments of 2022. Plagued by injuries, and handicapped by a porous offensive line, they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2018. To bounce back, you will have to be attack in the offseason. With their new offensive coordinator, Tim Kelly, and their new general manager Ran Carthon, the Titans have their work cut out for them and a very difficult situation in terms of heading. They are projected with 18.5 million deficit.

The owners

1. Derrick Henry (RB)
2. Jeffery Simmons (DT)
3. Kevin Byard (FS)

Derrick Henry is still there. After his 2021 season cut short by injury, the “King” returned to service this year. The numbers were certainly worse than in 2020, when he was named Offensive Player of the Year, but his 1,538 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns at an average of 4.4 yards per attempt still make him one of the league’s most prolific runners. And especially since he was not helped by his line, and he was more productive than ever at the reception (398 yards).

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But, with the exception of rookie Chigoziem Okonkwo (TE), Henry was the only satisfaction up front. It is in defense that the Titans have hung their 7 successes. Starting with an excellent defensive line, which has allowed the team to be the best running defense in the league. In the trio Teair Tart, Denico Autry, Jeffery Simmons, difficult not to give first place to the latter. With 7.5 sacks and 9 stuffs, he is a benchmark in his position. Finally, Kevin Byard continues to be a safe bet. Never injured, the safety has just completed a 6th season with at least 4 interceptions in 8 years in the league. Mention also for the rookie punter, Ryan Stonehouse, who broke the record for average length of punts with 53.1 yards.

Undesirables

– Bud Dupree (OLB)
Zach Cunningham (ILB)
Taylor Lewan (OL)
Robert Woods (WR)

With 7 sacks in two seasons with the Titans, Bud Dupree was not up to his performance with the Steelers, nor that of his contract in Tennessee. By cutting it, the franchise could save up to 16 million cap. He is already among the most courted future free agents on the market. Cunningham seems to him condemned by the virus of the injury which agitates his team. With 34 players placed on the injured list, the Titans led the league in this regard. The linebacker has played 10 games in two years. With his salary of 12 million a year, he is on an ejection seat.

Taylor Lewan, with a knee injury, only played 2 games last season. He only has one year left on his contract, and cutting it would save 14.5 million caps. The deal is pretty much in the bag for the multiple Pro-Bowler, and he himself said he expected to be cut. For Robert Woods, his 14.6 million caps in 2023, none of which would be due if he was cut, should again lead him to the exit.

The summer man

Ryan Tannehill (QB)

The conclusion is clear: Ryan Tannehill concluded his most difficult season in Tennessee with 13 touchdowns for 6 interceptions in 12 games. Between his routed offensive line which conceded 49 sacks (the 6th total in the league) and the sometimes questionable offensive choices of Todd Downing, who packed his bags, the quarterback was really not helped.

The problem is, Tannehill is now 35, and he still hasn’t gotten the Titans past the milestone that would take them to the Super Bowl. Above all, cutting it could save up to 27 million against the cap, a considerable sum for a team in great difficulty at this level. However, the decision is not so simple, because Malik Willis did not convince at all, and the correct performance of Josh Dobbs does not allow to imagine him at the level of the former Dolphin either. In addition, the Titans’ financial situation will make it difficult for them to seek a veteran, and their drafting needs are such that choosing a quarterback seems complicated.

There is therefore a decision to be made regarding Tannehill, and it could strongly guide the rest of the offseason in Nashville.

The main free agents

  1. David Long Jr. (LB)
  2. DeMarcus Walker (DE)
  3. Nate Davis (RG)
  4. Teair Tartt (DL)
  5. Joshua Dobbs (QB)

The rest: Austin Hooper (TE), Dennis Daley (OT), Dylan Cole (LB), Chris Conley (WR), Aaron Brewer (LG), Dontrell Hilliard (RB), Ben Jones (C)

As in all franchises but perhaps even more pronounced here, signing choices will largely depend on cut choices. As explained above, the Titans have little headroom. And they can no longer afford to rely on injured players.

The situation of David Long Jr. will therefore be monitored: the linebacker is one of the strongest parts of the team, and to part with him, if Zach Cunningham were cut, would be to start from scratch as linebacker. But the player is too often injured, having missed 11 games in two years. He, Davis and Hooper are potentially the most expensive players to re-sign. To see if the Titans can afford it.

Top 5 Needs

1. Offensive line
2. Receivers
3. Quarterback
4. Linebacker
5. Edges

The Titans offensive line situation is tough. Apart from the results last season, there is total uncertainty. All of their inside starters are free agents, and their left tackles won’t be back with the team next season unless there’s a surprise. These are therefore 1 to 4 positions that the Titans will have to find this offseason.

Always on offense, Tennessee must find weapons to support the racing game. Robert Woods led the team last season with just 527 receiving yards, and he’s at risk of being cut (see above). Treylon Burks has shown promise, but the team lacks a true number 1.

Besides the quarterbacks and linebackers, already mentioned, Edge’s position is likely to be relatively thin if Bud Dupree is cut. Despite the excellence of their interior defensive line, the Titans cannot expect a DeMarcus Walker to repeat his performance from 2022 (7 sacks, 10 tackles for loss).

Target

Orlando Brown Jr. (OT, Chiefs)

The temptation to fix offensive line issues in the draft is strong. With pick 11, the Titans will have plenty to do. But, given their difficulties, betting on a rookie to bail them out and train everyone is a risk they can’t afford to take. Attracting Orlando Brown Jr. would be a way for Tennessee to provide a solid base with an experienced player who would finally protect the blind side of their quarterback, while providing experience to young people. Above all, Brown is a solid player who has hardly ever been injured. A rare and therefore precious thing, in Tennessee.

The new blood

Quentin Johnston (WR)

Assuming the Titans are successful in luring a first-choice free agency tackle, they could once again use their first-choice to turn to a receiver. If Treylon Burks has not forgotten AJ Brown, Quentin Johnston has the physical potential and the qualities on the long balls to finally stretch Tennessee’s game and provide the big wins that the Nashville franchise is so lacking.

Otherwise, the Titans should be able to select Peter Skoronski with their pick 11 to fill their left tackle need. Later in the draft, the versatility of profiles like that of Steve Avila (OL) should interest them.

Other choices: Peter Skoronski (OL), Paris Johnson Jr. (OT), Jordan Addison (WR)

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