Many Questions Surround Tennessee Titans Entering Offseason
By Phil Luckett
Posted January 8th, 2006

The first concern for the Tennessee Titans is addressing the future of Steve McNair. Though it appears he is on the backside of his career, he is still the best player currently on the Titans offense. His '06 cap number means he'll have to rework his contract if he wants to stay. The question is what he feels his value should be. If something can't be worked out with McNair, the team may fall back on backup Billy Volek next season.

Options: There are a number of ways this can go. If a short-term contract for McNair can be worked out, the Titans may go into '06 as they are now and GM Floyd Reese has already said he'd prefer going that route. Of course, we know the Reese blows a lot of smoke this time of the year as well. If McNair retires or an agreement can't be reached, it is likely Volek will move to #1 and the Titans will look to groom a QB via the draft. If McNair stays, the Titans still may draft the QB of the future and there may be opportunities to trade Volek though his value can't be close to what it was at the end of last season. If they trade Volek, Matt Mauck may stick but the team may look for an upgrade.

Opinion: McNair was inconsistent and is missing far too much practice time with a young receiving core who obviously needs to create chemistry and timing with their QB. With most of these receiver peaking in two or three seasons, it doesn't make much sense to then be switching QB in '08. I would offer him a short-term deal heavy in incentives or allow #9 to head to the farm. However it shakes out, it's time to look for the next franchise QB and have him ready to take over the reins by '07.

Running back/Fullback

Chris Brown didn't live up to expectations this season. To his credit, he did a better job with his durability issues but still doesn't stay healthy enough to be counted on every Sunday. He also fell victim to a Titans offense which abandoned the run early in many games due to getting behind and had some quality carries called back due to penalties. Questions remain if Brown can ever take his game to the next tier. Travis Henry has been a bust with assorted injuries and a four-game suspension. Jarrett Payton has limited upside and will need to work hard to retain a roster spot next season. Damien Nash is a total and complete question mark as we only saw him the final game of the season against Jaguar scrubs. It would be ideal if he could step in and make the short yardage running game more successful and back up Brown. Troy Fleming was a disappointment this season with a number of dropped passes though is still a solid special teams player.

Options: With Henry due a big $4 mil bonus, it is doubtful the Titans keep him if they have any faith at all in Nash. But Henry may be willing to rework his deal as he doesn't have much value being a violation away from a year's suspension.

Opinion: Brown is inexpensive right now so the Titans will ride him for another year. There's no way I keep Henry in his present deal but would offer him something minimal with incentives. Payton should be upgraded. Though the Titans won't draft a FB, Fleming needs to show a lot more next camp.

Tight End
Erron Kinney had his best season and has become McNair's favorite target. Ben Troupe continues to show big play potential but hasn't yet become the consistent weapon the Titans thought they were drafting and the offense needs. Bo Scaife had a solid rookie season and looks to have a lot of upside.  Gregg Guenther looked lost at times this season but showed potential.

Options: This unit should be set for the foreseeable future though the team will invite in a TE or two to compete against Guenther.

Opinion: There is some talk that Kinney could be shopped around as trade bait but I don't move McNair's most trusted weapon and the team's best blocking TE. Now if McNair is gone, that changes things a bit. Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow needs to spend a lot of time this offseason finding ways to utilize Troupe better than he did this season.

Wide Receiver
A huge question mark hangs over this unit. Drew Bennett didn't break the 100 yard receiving mark in a game all season and only passed the 75 yard mark four times. Tyrone Calico lost the #2 WR job to rookie Brandon Jones early in the season and had far too many drops when given a chance. Just a year removed from his ACL surgery, many question whether or not Calico will live up to the playmaking potential he showed as a rookie. Brandon Jones was the surprise rookie of the three drafted but an ACL makes it difficult to count on him most of '06. Roydell Williams showed some flashes before a wrist injury ended his season. Courtney Roby appeared to hit the rookie wall after fighting back from his early-season injury but came on better late. Bobby Wade was a late addition and there will certainly be questions as to whether or not he's a part of the Titans future plans.

Options: The Titans don't look to be major players in free agency but they may try to find a deep threat and bring in some veteran leadership here. It is doubtful they draft anyone after taking three in the '05 NFL draft but Reese may swoop up a value if too good to pass up. They also may not be ready to give up on Bennett as a #1 if they can take pressure off him by getting more production out of the #2 WR spot. Hopefully, Williams and Roby will be more productive their sophomore seasons and Calico, with the ACL well behind him, can become more than a player with potential.

Opinion: The Titans desperately need someone who can stretch the field. Bennett isn't a #1 WR and there are no guarantees Calico or Jones can be counted on in '06. I would shop for some leadership here who poses a deep threat. A Derrick Mason-type would be ideal. Of course, 31 other teams out there also covet the same thing so it's easier said than done.

Offensive Line
There could be significant change to this unit with the aging Brad Hopkins and Benji Olson being due big roster bonues and Justin Hartwig becoming an unrestricted free agent. Michael Roos had his ups and downs but should be ready to make the transition over to left tackle. Jacob Bell could be ready to step in at either a guard or tackle position being a year removed from his ACL. Other young backups include Eugene Amano at center, David Stewart at guard or right tackle and Daniel Loper who should also be improved in '06.

Options: Hopkins and Olson may choose to rework their deals if the Titans want them but it looks like a situation where a wholesale change is coming. It is very likely Hartwig will test the market. If the Titans do lose two or three on the OL, they may be in the market for a free agent if one of the young guys is not ready to step in. If McNair is willing to rework his deal to stay another couple of seasons, you can bet he'll be interested in how the front office handles his future OL.

Opinion: Time to clean house. I let Hoppy become a broadcaster. I let Olson go and allow Hartwig to test the waters. If Reese is not confident Roos is LT material, he'll have a lot of depth in this draft to find one.

Defensive Line
The main question facing the defensive line this offseason will be whether or not they can afford to keep Kyle Vanden Bosch. Much of that will be based on what other teams in the league perceive as his value having just one solid season among a career filled with injuries. Another factor is what the team feels about the future of their young DEs. Travis LaBoy came on strong late in the season and appears to be the top rusher out of the three sophomore DEs on the roster. Antwan Odom has all the tools but that hasn't translated into production on the field. Bo Schobel hasn't shown much so far and the team will be looking for him to produce. The interior is set with Albert Haynesworth, Randy Starks, Rien Long and Jared Clauss all with upside but needing to take their game to the next level.

Options: Signing KVB will likely be one of the team's top priorities this offseason. If he is signed, the DL should be one of the team's strengths heading into '06. If a deal can't be reached, the Titans may look to the draft for someone to work into the rotation or some experience through free agency as they did by bringing in KVB last offseason.

Opinion: I do my best to keep KVB but think his asking price will be too high. He'll test the waters because someone in the league will be dumb enough to throw top dollar his way and he'd be insane not to take it. After his production last season, he deserves whatever he can get.

Keith Bulluck remains the cornerstone of the defense. After that, this unit may be shaken up dramatically. Peter Sirmon counts $5.5 mil towards the '06 cap and Brad Kassell, along with Rocky Boiman, will be unrestricted free agents. Rob Reynolds showed solid improvement from his rookie campaign and may be ready to push for more playing time next season. Cody Spencer is an overachiever but is little more than special teams help.

Options: Sirmon hasn't been close to 100% this season and the front office will need to decide whether he is worth investing in long-term. Most likely, this is an area the Titans may address both in free agency and the draft with possibly a very early-round pick. With the problems the Titans have had this season against the run and short passing game, this is an area the Titans need to give a lot of attention to. There is a clear need for speed here.

Opinion: I let Sirmon, Kassell and Boiman walk. I'm not sold on Reynolds but he appears the kind who might be a solid backup if he makes the strides this offseason he did between his rookie and second year. Without a doubt I bring in a vet at MLB and use a high pick on some of the quality depth available at LB in the draft.

The Titans are set on one side with Pacman Jones and Reynaldo Hill shows plenty of potential as the #2. Andre Woolfolk has been a huge disappointment though may get another chance to reclaim an outside position. Michael Waddell and Rich Gardner are both backups and appear to have limited upside. Tony Beckham will be an unrestricted free agent and won't be in the Titans future.
Options: No doubt the Titans will draft a corner or two in the '06 draft as they always do but the starters for the foreseeable future are set.

Opinion: I wouldn't even allow Woolfolk to try and regain the outside spot though I expect Fisher will give him another shot. Instead, I'd also bring in a technically-sound vet who can backup both outside spots and provide some leadership to this young unit. Gardner is history.

Though he came on better towards the end of the season, Tank Williams will likely be shown the door and be allowed to test the market. Maybe he returned too quickly from the ACL but he's not lived up to expectations since his rookie season. Lamont Thompson has been wildly inconsistent and Donnie Nickey appears to be shaky as depth but has made an impact on special teams. Vincent Fuller showed a lot of promise before his injury early in the season after he had nailed down the nickelback position. Marcus Randall was activated late and showed some potential on special teams.
Options: One of the more obvious weaknesses this season, the Titans could look to bring in someone via free agency here along with drafting some help.

Opinion: I immediately invest some of that freed-up cap room here. I'd let Williams go along with Thompson and his $2.1 mil cap hit. I insert Fuller at FS and jump Randall to the #2 SS behind a free agent pickup.

Special Teams
Rob Bironas was one of the more pleasant surprises of the season. Craig Hentrich is still a weapon as a punter. Pacman Jones became a dangerous return man and made that unit respectable again.

Options: The Titans usually bring a kicker and punter to camp but it's unlikely they'll offer much competition. A number of kick returners will be tested and Courtney Roby may get another look here. Pacman should have the punt return duties set for '06.

Opinion: Hentrich is expensive and is declining. I would ask him to come off his deal which will cost the Titans $1.6 in '06.

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