The Tennessee Titans will be shopping just like every other team this offseason. In less than two weeks, the NFL free agency period will officially open. Depending on your assessment of Kirk Cousins, this year’s class of free agents either has one big name in it or no big names in it (come on – did anyone really think Le’Veon Bell was going to hit the open market?). The point is, there’s not really any marquee name up for grabs this year. I can’t imagine any of the impending class being signed at 12:01AM on the opening day of free agency this year.
But, that doesn’t mean the class isn’t deep with starters and serviceable role players alike. The Titans’ needs are extensive on defense: cornerback, safety, inside linebacker, pass rush help, virtually everywhere. General manager Jon Robinson places an emphasis on building through the draft, and I imagine this year’s draft will primarily be about rebuilding the defense.
On offense, the questions are much more cut and dry. The ‘exotic smashmouth’ philosophy works. The Titans have a solid stable of running backs, one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, a top five tight end, and a franchise quarterback. I’m sure they’ll add depth along the line and perhaps draft an heir to Delanie Walker’s throne, but the team is still searching for elite speed at receiver.
Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe proved dependable, but the Titans offense still doesn’t have a guy who can routinely beat man-to-man coverage and get downfield at warp speed. Kendall Wright has likely played his last game as a Titan, which leaves the unit with Harry Douglas and Tre McBride. This group is due for an upgrade.
Spending big money on free agents doesn’t have a great track record of success come September. Robinson has certainly shown that value takes precedence over need. So, it seems unlikely for this team to look for a true number one in free agency. Depending on how the signings go, the Titans could spend a first round pick on a receiver. But, they’ll need to add more than one receiver regardless.
Luckily, this seems to be a class of free agent receivers ripe with just the set of skills the Titans are looking for.
Jeffery fits the need for a number one receiver. He may be the only legitimate one in the entire free agent class. Robinson’s history gives us no reason to think he’ll spend the amount of money Jeffery will likely ask for. Titans fans keep clamoring for the guy, but signing him to a lucrative contract just doesn’t seem to match this franchise’s philosophy.
The main critique of Patterson has been his inability to pick up NFL offenses, but this isn’t a rigid Ken Whisenhunt offense anymore. He’s versatile, likely won’t break the bank, and showed a lot of improvement in the passing game last season. Patterson gets a boost for his potential to replace Marc Mariani as the Titans return specialist.
Stills is surprisingly young at just 25 years of age. He served the role of number three quite well behind Jarvis Landry and Davante Parker in Miami. Still possessing elite downfield speed, Stills could be just the deep threat the Titans offense needs.
Gabriel fits the mold of a player on the rise. The Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons both used him on gadget plays. He emerged as a dynamic force on offense. He’s a bit gritty, too, which seems to fall in line with what the Titans are trying to be on offense. Gabriel is a restricted free agent. Is any team going to give up the money and/or draft picks to pry him away from the Falcons?
Ted Ginn, Jr.
Coming off of the two best seasons in his 10-year career, Ginn seems like the best all-around option. Sure, there’s been some issues with drops in his past, but that didn’t seem to slow him down in an offense that isn’t too far off from the Titans. He can still get around corners one-on-one and go deep. Like Patterson, Ginn gets a boost from his potential to return kicks and punts. At 32 years old, Ginn could be a bargain.
We’ll see what happens come March 10th.