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OJ Howard
NFL

Titans Should Target These 6 Free Agents

  • Justin Melo
  • February 22, 2022
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Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson must spend the offseason improving a roster that experienced a disappointing and premature postseason defeat at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals in the divisional round. The two-time defending AFC South champions and 2021 holders of the one-seed will likely focus on retaining some of their own crucial starters, and the need to get creative in free agency will be ever-present. Outside linebacker and defensive leader Harold Landry qualifies as the Titans' largest in-house free agent. Landry may command north of $15 million annually on a multi-year contract and is a candidate to receive the franchise tag, although a multi-year extension would allow the Titans to lower his cap hit in 2022. Starting center Ben Jones is the team's biggest free agent on the offensive side of the ball, where a pair of low-level starters are also set to witness their contracts expire. The Titans aren't in an excellent situation against the salary cap. They are currently $6 million above the cap, per Spotrac. Robinson can create a plethora of cap space by restructuring a few contracts (Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry are among them) and releasing a few veterans (Rodger Saffold is a prime candidate to be released). Should the Titans keep Landry and Jones, and they should, it will impact how much they can spend in free agency. With cap, team needs, pending free agents, and draft selections all put into consideration, here are three offensive and defensive free agents Tennessee could target when the signing period begins on March 14.

O.J. HOWARD, TE, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

The Titans must revamp an abysmal tight end room this offseason. Robinson certainly doesn't regret last year's decision to allow Jonnu Smith to sign a lucrative contract with the New England Patriots after Smith flopped as a Patriot in 2021, but the Titans didn't do an ideal job replacing him, either. The trio of Anthony Firkser, Geoff Swaim, and MyCole Pruitt was largely ineffective as the tight end position became an afterthought in Tennessee's offense. It's a development that was somewhat unforeseen following the importance the position carried under previous offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. Robinson will almost certainly attempt to right his wrong by adding a veteran tight end (or two) to the 2022 roster. Tampa Bay's O.J. Howard would represent the type of shrewd cost-effective signing the Titans should try to make this offseason given their needs and financial flexibility. Howard possesses the size and speed necessary to pose a threat up the seam in the passing game. He's also an effective blocker in the run game, a trait that is crucial to getting on the field in Tennessee's offense given the presence of Henry in the backfield. Howard will likely be available on a short-team "prove-it" deal following his failure to develop into an every-down tight end in Tampa. Howard played third fiddle to Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate and should be looking for a fresh start in a place that would award him a starring role. Tennessee makes a ton of sense for him to rehabilitate his reputation.

WILL FULLER, WR, MIAMI DOLPHINS

A.J. Brown is a bonafide superstar and will undeniably continue to serve as the team's preferred pass-catcher in a heavy play-action passing attack that best takes advantage of his physical ability and run after catch skills in the open field. Former Atlanta Falcon Julio Jones will likely return as the starting receiver opposite Brown on the boundary, and the Titans will hope for better luck in the health department. Jones was healthy and effective down the stretch, but 2021 largely qualified as a lost season for the future Canton-bound pass-catcher. Former Houston Texans offensive coordinator Tim Kelly has officially joined Mike Vrabel's staff as the team's new passing game coordinator, and Kelly will attempt to heal a broken passing offense that struggles mightily outside of play action. The traditional drop-back game must improve and Kelly's duties will surely center around developing a better plan going forward. Tennessee's group of wide receivers desperately needs an injection of speed. They lacked a deep threat that could better free up their targets underneath last season. It qualifies as a potential solution to their problems. Enter Will Fuller, who always comes with risk due to his long history of previous injuries. That risk backfired for the Miami Dolphins last year, who received just two games out of Fuller due to a broken thumb. Kelly coached Fuller in Houston for a number of years and is plenty familiar with his skill set. Fuller has the type of speed the Titans could desperately make use of offensively. He should be available at a reasonable number on a short-term contract. Reuniting with Kelly in Tennessee will be rumored in Nashville.

TOM COMPTON, OT, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Starting right tackle David Quessenberry is set to become a free agent and the Titans may prefer to go in a different direction after Quessenberry struggled in pass protection all throughout 2021. Quessenberry allowed a league-high 11 sacks and 43 total pressures in 17 regular-season starts, via Pro Football Focus. Quessenberry is well-liked within Tennessee's locker room, but his performance as a starter could signal the end of his tenure in Nashville. Luckily, the Titans possess an in-house solution in the form of sophomore second-round selection Dillon Radunz out of North Dakota State. Radunz largely experienced a redshirt year in 2021 after making just one start for the Titans at left tackle in a late-season primetime contest against the San Francisco 49ers. Now that Radunz has a year of NFL experience under his belt, he'll be expected to command the right tackle spot in 2022. The Titans will still need to add depth to the position should Quessenberry walk. San Francisco's Tom Compton has plenty of experience playing in the same offensive system under Kyle Shanahan. Compton and Titans offensive line coach Keith Carter crossed paths in Atlanta in 2016, and his athletic abilities in Tennessee's outside-zone running scheme make him an ideal fit in free agency. Compton may prefer to remain with Shanahan, but should either side decide to move on, we would expect the Titans to show interest in him.

SIDNEY JONES, CB, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Janoris "Jackrabbit" Jenkins was a quality outside starter on an excellent Titans defense in 2021, but his contract is going to be difficult to keep around. Jenkins is set to carry a cap hit of more than $10 million in 2022, a number that should be deemed unacceptable by the cash-strapped Titans given Jenkins' advancing age. Tennessee can save nearly $7 million against the cap by outright releasing Jenkins, and the presence of 2021 first-round selection Caleb Farley makes it a likely scenario. The injury-prone Farley suffered another setback with a torn ACL in his rookie season, but the former Virginia Tech standout will be expected to compete for a starting job opposite Kristian Fulton in 2022. Farley's lengthy injury history means the Titans must protect themselves by adding a veteran corner at an affordable number that could handle a starring role should Farley fail to stay healthy. Sidney Jones is the type of player and cover-man the Titans may covet as a backup plan. Senior defensive assistant Jim Schwartz spent three seasons (2017-19) as Jones' defensive coordinator in Philadelphia and is highly familiar with his abilities. Jones is a versatile talent that could handle a role in Tennessee's secondary. Jones has shined brightly in a limited role over the years, and he'd be walking into a similar situation in Tennessee with a familiar coaching staff. His ability to play man coverage would serve him well in Nashville.

KAMU GRUGIER-HILL, LB, HOUSTON TEXANS

The Titans will likely enter the 2022 season with Zach Cunningham and David Long Jr. as their two starters at the inside linebacker position, but a specialist in coverage and depth may be added via free agency. Fellow inside linebacker Jayon Brown is expected to search for greener pastures in free agency after falling out of favor with the Titans' coaching staff. Brown was a healthy scratch in Week 18 and will likely look for a fresh start elsewhere in hopes of rejuvenating his once-promising career. Backup safety Dane Cruikshank played man coverage on tight ends, but is also set to reach free agency and may find more money and opportunity on the open market. The potential departures of Brown and Cruikshank would leave the Titans with a sizable hole in sub-package looks as neither Cunningham, Long, or third-round rookie Monty Rice are particularly effective in coverage. Veteran Texans linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill has multiple connections to Tennessee's staff and front office and is an excellent coverage linebacker. Grugier-Hill was initially drafted by the New England Patriots in 2016 when Tennessee's current Director of Player Personnel Monti Ossenfort held a high-ranking scouting role in Foxboro. Grugier-Hill then spent the next four seasons with the Eagles alongside Titans defensive assistant Schwartz. Grugier-Hill played the 2021 campaign in Houston alongside new Titans passing game coordinator Kelly and inside linebackers coach Bobby King, who was hired by the Titans just weeks ago. The Titans need a player with Grugier-Hill's skill set and the connections between player and franchise are never-ending.

JACOB MARTIN, EDGE, HOUSTON TEXANS

We're sticking with the Houston theme here because Vrabel and defensive coordinator Shane Bowen love dipping into their old stomping grounds. The Titans have employed several coaches and players that formerly worked for the Texans in recent years. Tennessee doesn't need to do much at the EDGE position this offseason assuming they retain Landry via the franchise tag or a long-term lucrative deal, but better depth behind Landry and Bud Dupree could be explored. Rotational outside linebacker Ola Adeniyi is a free agent and may command more money and snaps after experiencing a career-best season defensively in 2021. Sophomore draft pick Rashad Weaver is recovering from a serious lower-body season-ending injury and Derick Roberson hasn't quite developed into the pass-rushing threat they hoped he'd become. Jacob Martin is an athletic pass rusher that's proven effective in a specialist role. Martin has spent time with several current Titans coaches in Houston including King, Kelly, and Anthony Midget. Martin has recorded a respectable 10.5 sacks over the previous three seasons with the Texans while proving himself as a valuable piece of the puzzle. The Titans are awfully familiar with Martin, and he would provide necessary depth in Tennessee on a cost-effective deal.

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Justin Melo