By March 3, the Tennessee Titans will have to decide whether or not to place the franchise tag on CB Alterraun Verner. But whether or not they tag him, there are still holes on the team, and free agency offers the first chance to fill those needs. Free agency officially starts on March 11, so here are 5 areas the Tennessee Titans should address prior to the draft.Alterraun Verner of the Tennessee Titans may receive the franchise tag in coming days
1. Middle Linebacker
Last year, a late training camp addition in Moise Fokou stepped in for the talented, but oft injured Colin McCarthy. While Fokou played well, the Titans could use an upgrade at the position. Add in the fact that new defensive coordinator Ray Horton likes to run multiple defenses but has predominately run the 3-4, the Titans could use a second starter and someone with experience in multiple schemes. This issue could be most easily solved by adding the recently released D’Qwell Jackson to the locker room. Jackson has had experience in both the 3-4 and the 4-3 while also having experience in Ray Horton’s system as recently as last season in Cleveland. Jackson should be the Tennessee Titans top priority in free agency, and since he was released as opposed to having his contract run out, the Titans can sign Jackson immediately, which I would highly recommend they do.
2. Pass Rush
I would have called this category defensive end, but since the defense plans on being multiple, I felt pass rush was a more appropriate term since OLB could be more advantageous. The Titans could save some money by releasing the under-performing Kamerion Wimbley and reallocate that money toward another pass rusher. In this projected free agent class, it looks like Brian Orakpo is the premier pass rusher, but he will probably be a bit out of the Titans price range, if he is not franchise tagged prior to the start of free agency. Anthony Spencer of the Dallas Cowboys could be an intriguing option. He is coming off of a major injury and will likely be a far cheaper option to the younger Orakpo. Also, he has experience in the 3-4 and 4-3 systems. Michael Bennett from Seattle would be a younger option, but could be priced closer to Orakpo than Spencer.
The quickest option to filling this void would be to resign Bernard Pollard, whose skill set matchup up well with that of Michael Griffin. But given his age and limited coverage ability, I would not be surprised to see the Titans look at other options first. Buffalo’s Jarius Byrd is one of the most talented coverage safeties in the game, but will come with a hefty salary and signing bonus. Given the amount of money the Titans are giving Griffin already, I would be surprised to see them go this route. Louis Delmas of the Lions has an injury history or he would still be in Detroit. Delmas is a player who can do everything hoped for from the position, but his injury history is a red flag for many teams. Don’t be surprised to see the Titans shop around and come back to Pollard when it is all said and done.
While resigning Alterraun Verner would help to alleviate this need, it would not eliminate it. With the league becoming as pass dominated as it is, the Titans could still use help in this area. Let’s assume that Verner is not tagged, that leaves either 2nd year player Blidi Wreh-Wilson or the under achieving Tommy Campbell as the favorites currently on the roster to start opposite Jason McCourty. This is a deep free agency class for the cornerback position, and there are any number of options that would be cheaper than franchise tagging Verner. Brent Grimes is on the wrong side of 30 to demand a high priced long term deal, while Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who went to TSU, would probably be happy to have a long-term deal after playing the last 2 seasons without one. DRC also has ties to new DC Ray Horton from their time together in Arizona.
5. Wide Receiver
While this is a deep draft class at the WR position, and the Titans have recently spent 1st and 2nd round picks on the position, letting Kenny Britt walk and Nate Washington’s age and cap number getting higher, the Titans should be in the market for a WR. Most would look to the draft to fill this need, and so may the Titans, but looking to free agency in a year when there is a deep draft class should mean the veterans will be asking less based on the competition for open jobs. Hakeem Nicks is a similar player to Kenny Britt and could be a true number 1 WR for Tennessee, but he is oft injured and may look to head back to his Carolina roots. The Titans should look toward either James Jones, or Golden Tate. Both have been underrated productive players who are willing to block and play within the scheme without becoming a locker room distraction. Either would be a great fit with and Justin Hunter in Tennessee, but from the amount of publicity each is getting, Golden Tate would probably have the smaller price tag.