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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.