2013 NFL Offseason: Tennessee Titans

Tennessee Titans (Last Year: 6-10)

2013 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Shonn Greene, RB Jalen Parmele, WR Kevin Walter, TE Delanie Walker, OT Barry Richardson, G Andy Levitre, G Chris Spencer, C Rob Turner, DT Sammie Lee Hill, DT Ropati Pitoitua, ILB Moise Fokou, S Bernard Pollard, S George Wilson.
Early Draft Picks:
G Chance Warmack, WR Justin Hunter, CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, OLB Zaviar Gooden, C/G Brian Schwenke, DE Lavar Edwards. Titans Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Matt Hasselbeck, RB Javon Ringer, RB Jamie Harper, TE Jared Cook, G Steve Hutchinson, G Deuce Lutui, G Leroy Harris, C Eugene Amano, DE/DT Jarius Wynn, DT Sen’Derrick Marks, DT Leger Douzable, OLB Gerald McRath, OLB Will Witherspoon, ILB Zac Diles, CB Ryan Mouton, S Jordan Babineaux.

2013 Tennessee Titans Offense:
Tennessee’s entire offseason plan was focused on improving Jake Locker and Chris Johnson. The reason for that is simple – the Titans will only threaten for a playoff spot if both Locker and Johnson play well. If they don’t, and Tennessee has yet another losing season, the coaching staff and many people in the front office will be fired.

The first thing the Titans did was solidify their offensive line. They gave former Buffalo guard Andy Levitre a 6-year, $46.8 million contract on March 12. That’s a ton of money for a guard, but Levitre is one of the top players at his position. The Titans proved that they value guards highly on two occasions; a month and a half after handing Levitre a huge deal, they spent the No. 10 overall selection on Chance Warmack, a powerful lineman regarded by some to be the best guard prospect to come along since Steve Hutchinson.

Warmack and Levitre sandwich center Fernando Velasco, who will be getting a long-term contract himself next spring. Velasco is a stud, so he deserves a ton of cash. Meanwhile, tackles Michael Roos and David Stewart are the other two starters up front. Roos and Stewart combined to allow just six sacks in 2012, though the latter missed the final four games of the season with a broken leg. He should be fine by this season’s opener.

Blocking certainly won’t be a problem for CJ2K this year, so there are no more excuses. Johnson rushed 1,243 yards in 2012 at a decent 4.5 yards-per-carry clip, but both numbers could have been much better had he not danced at the line of scrimmage and took frequent losses. Johnson figures to have the same sort of line that helped him rush for 2,006 yards in 2009. He won’t approach that figure, but he should come in around 1,500 if he can stay on the field.

So, how about Locker? That’s a completely different story because he has his own personal issues that he needs to overcome. Locker can look really great at times, like he did when he went 29-of-42 for 378 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 3 victory over the Lions. However, he’s terribly inconsistent and has spells where he makes horrific decisions that lead to turnovers. Locker needs to put it together mentally. He hasn’t done that yet, but he’s only in his third season. There’s still time for him to improve.

Locker can’t blame his supporting cast if he doesn’t make a leap in his third year. In addition to CJ2K, Locker has Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright to work with. Britt is an underachiever, but he also happens to be very talented. Wright, a first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, showed plenty of promise as a rookie when he recorded 64 passes for 626 yards and four touchdowns despite being the third option in the aerial attack. With Nate Washington fading away, Wright should be in store for an even bigger year.

The Titans added two targets for Locker. One was second-round selection Justin Hunter, a physically gifted receiver. Hunter is both big and fast, but he needs to work on not dropping passes. Tight end Delanie Walker was added to replace chronic underachiever Jared Cook. Walker is a decent receiving tight end, but his main strength is blocking.

2013 Tennessee Titans Defense:
The front office spent most of its resources on finding improvements for the offense, but a few upgrades were made on this side of the ball. Two of them were actually at the same position. Tennessee signed safeties Bernard Pollard and George Wilson to improve a position that was a total mess last year. Michael Griffin and Jordan Babineaux were relentlessly torched in coverage. I’m not sure if adding Pollard and Wilson completely fixes that – Pollard’s main strength is supporting the run, while Wilson turned 32 in March – but having them around can’t hurt. Griffin is still on the roster, so perhaps he’ll bounce back.

Tennessee also wanted to bolster the cornerback position with Dee Milliner, but he was off the board when the team was on the clock with the 10th-overall pick. They settled for Blidi Wreh-Wilson in the third round instead. The Connecticut product was a steal there, as some thought he’d sneak into the end of Day 1. Wreh-Wilson will provide solid depth and may beat out Alterraun Verner as a starter across from the solid Jason McCourty.

Two players were added up front, with Sammie Lee Hill and Ropati Pitoitua coming in from Detroit and Kansas City, respectively. Hill was buried on the Lions’ depth chart behind Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, but he’ll be a starter in Tennessee. He does a decent job of pressuring the quarterback. He’ll play next to Jurrell Casey on run downs and Mike Martin in passing situations. Casey is stout versus the rush, while Martin registered three sacks as a rookie despite not being on the field very often.

The Titans generate pressure on the quarterback from various places – linebackers Zach Brown and Akeem Ayers had six and 5.5 sacks, respectively – but the team could stand to get a better pass rush from defensive ends Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley. The two had 6.5 and six sacks, respectively. It’s worth noting though that only two of those combined 12.5 sacks came prior to Week 7, so that’s promising for 2013. Still, Tennessee needs improvement there. Perhaps fifth-round rookie Lavar Edwards will be able to help as a rotational player this season.

Ayers and Brown were both mentioned; they’re a couple of talented linebackers who are still both very young (they were chosen in the second rounds of the 2011 and 2012 NFL Draft, respectively). They sandwich middle linebacker Colin McCarthy, who absolutely needs to stay healthy for a change. McCarthy played well as a rookie in 2011 even though he missed three games. However, he was out for nine contests this past year because of an ankle and played sluggishly upon his return to the lineup.

2013 Tennessee Titans Schedule and Intangibles:
Rob Bironas earned a 2-year, $6.6 million contract on March 7. Considering that he’s hit at least 80 percent of his field goals every year since 2007, he’s worth it. Bironas is 19-of-24 from 50-plus during that span.

Brett Kern had a decent 2012 campaign; he was 14th in net yardage and tied for seventh for attempts placed inside the 20.

Tennessee struggled to defend punt and kickoff returns, but Darius Reynaud was better than the opposition. He scored thrice in 2012.

The Titans have a roller-coaster schedule. They open up with two tough opponents (Steelers, Texans), but then get the Chargers, Jets and Chiefs, all at home. After that, they have to take on the 49ers and Seahawks. Tennessee has a three-game road trip toward the end of the season; it has to travel to Oakland, Indianapolis and Denver in consecutive weeks.

2013 Tennessee Titans Rookies:
Go here for the Titans Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2013 Tennessee Titans Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2013 Tennessee Titans Analysis: Their record may not show it because they lucked into some victories last year, but the Titans will definitely be better this season than they were in 2012. What ultimately has to happen though is Jake Locker improving enough to lead the team into the playoffs. He has the physical ability to do this, but the mental part of his game just isn’t there yet. It needs to develop quickly before he, along with everyone on the coaching staff and front office, loses their job.

Projection: 6-10 (3rd in AFC South)

2013 Fantasy Football Rankings

More 2013 NFL Season Previews


2013 NFL Draft Grade: A-

Please note that the overall grade is not an average of all the individual grades. Other things are taken into account like team needs and goals.

Goals Entering the 2013 NFL Draft: Tennessee isn’t going anywhere with Jake Locker, but this front office will be forced to stick with him for one more year. Adding some help around Locker at receiver, tight end and guard will help a bit, but it ultimately won’t matter. Meanwhile, the defense is in shambles, so something must be done about that.

2013 NFL Draft Accomplishments: There are no more excuses for Jake Locker. The front office signed Andy Levtire in free agency and then drafted Chance Warmack and Brian Schwenke to completely bolster the offensive line. Justin Hunter, meanwhile, offers an upgrade at receiver. The Titans have done a tremendous job of placing talent around Locker. It’s all on him now.

Tennessee’s defense figures to be better as well. Blidi Wreh-Wilson was a steal in the third round, and he could start sometime soon. Zaviar Gooden gives the Titans some injury insurance at linebacker – something they didn’t have last year. Lavar Edwards provides needed depth at defensive end.

I’m a big fan of what general manager Ruston Webster was able to accomplish this weekend. The issue, of course, remains Locker. If he can mature and cut down on his mistakes, Tennessee can compete for a playoff spot. I’m not too confident in that, however. If Locker stinks again, Webster could be fired – which would be a shame considering what he was able to accomplish in the 2013 NFL Draft.

2013 NFL Draft Individual Grades:

10. Chance Warmack, G, Alabama: C Grade
It’s one thing to draft Jonathan Cooper in the top 10 because he can play center as well as guard. It’s another to go with Chance Warmack, who can’t be anywhere but guard. Once again, this is way too early to select a guard, but I’m not giving the Titans as poor of a grade as the Cardinals because they didn’t have much of a choice. The front office needed to do something to help Jake Locker and Chris Johnson in order to keep their jobs, and Warmack is the best offensive talent on the board. It would have been nice if Tennessee could have traded down, but that may not have been possible.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

34. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee: A- Grade
I love this move, as Tennessee surrendered a 2014 third-rounder to move here. Justin Hunter should have been taken in the first round. He’s unbelievably athletic and has tremendous upside. The Titans had to find some weapons for Jake Locker because if he doesn’t succeed, the coaching staff and front office will be fired.

70. Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Connecticut: A Grade
There was some talk that Blidi Wreh-Wilson could sneak into the end of the first round, so you have to love the value here. The Titans were said to consider Dee Milliner at No. 10, but Wreh-Wilson isn’t a bad consolation prize, as he will help fill a huge need at cornerback.

97. Zaviar Gooden, OLB, Missouri: B Grade
The Titans had to find some linebacker depth, and they’re getting a pretty good talent in Zaviar Gooden. I had Gooden around this range – in fact, I mocked him to Tennessee’s early fourth-rounder for weeks – so I like this pick.

107. Brian Schwenke, C/G, California: A- Grade
The Titans continue to bolster the interior of their offensive line, turning last year’s glaring weakness into a strength. I like Brian Schwenke a lot and feel like he should have gone a round earlier.

142. Lavar Edwards, DE, LSU: B Grade
Tennessee had very little depth at defensive end going into the 2013 NFL Draft, so this pick makes sense from a needs standpoint. Lavar Edwards is also in the right range as a fifth-round prospect.

202. Khalid Wooten, CB, Nevada: B Grade
No surprise that the Titans drafted a second cornerback because their pass defense was so woeful last year. They liked Wooten, which is why I mocked him to Tennessee in the seventh round.

248. Daimion Stafford, S, Nebraska: B Grade
I expected the Titans to draft a safety earlier, but better late than never. Daimion Stafford fits the range, so this is a solid choice.

Season Summary:
The Titans suffered a ridiculous six losses of 21 points or more. After one of those ugly blowouts, owner Bud Adams threatened everyone’s job. Well, barely anyone was let go. Mike Munchak and Jake Locker will continue to be Tennessee’s coaching-quarterbacking tandem in 2013, which won’t exactly excite the fan base.

Offseason Moves:
  • Titans sign OT Barry Richardson
  • Lions sign G Leroy Harris
  • Titans sign RB Jalen Parmele
  • Titans waive RB Jamie Harper
  • Chiefs sign ILB Zac Diles
  • Chargers sign DE/DT Jarius Wynn
  • Jaguars sign DT Sen’Derrick Marks
  • Titans sign WR Kevin Walter
  • Titans sign G Chris Spencer
  • Titans sign DT Ropati Pitoitua
  • Titans sign S Bernard Pollard
  • Titans sign C/G/OT Rob Turner
  • Colts sign QB Matt Hasselbeck
  • Titans sign QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
  • Titans cut QB Matt Hasselbeck
  • Titans re-sign KR Darius Reynaud
  • Titans sign DT Sammie Lee Hill
  • Titans sign RB Shonn Greene
  • Titans sign ILB Moise Fokou
  • Titans sign G Andy Levitre
  • Titans re-sign FB Quinn Johnson
  • Titans cut G Mitch Petrus
  • Titans cut S Jordan Babineaux
  • Rams sign TE Jared Cook
  • Titans sign TE Delanie Walker
  • Titans announce retirement of G Steve Hutchinson
  • Titans tender C Fernando Velasco
  • Titans re-sign K Rob Bironas
  • Titans sign S George Wilson

    Team Needs:
    1. Two Safeties: Tennessee could not stop the pass in 2012. A big part of the reason was the play of safeties Michael Griffin and Jordan Babineaux. The front office has a five-day window after the Super Bowl to release Griffin before it has to pay him $4.5 million in 2013. If the Titans don’t give him another chance, they’ll have to find two new safeties. Signed George Wilson and Bernard Pollard

    2. Two Guards: Chris Johnson needs better blocking in front of him to truly return to CJ2K form. Left guard Steve Hutchinson was a disappointment in 2012 (he retired in March), while Leroy Harris is a sub-par lineman heading for free agency. Signed Andy Levitre and Rob Turner; drafted Chance Warmack

    3. Cornerback: Another reason the Titans couldn’t stop the pass was because they had no cornerback depth. Plus, Alterraun Verner will be a free agent next spring. DeMarcus Milliner could be Tennessee’s choice at No. 10 overall this April. Drafted Blidi Wreh-Wilson

    4. Center: Speaking of the interior of the offensive line, Fernando Velasco must be retained after a surprisingly solid 2012 campaign. Tendered Fernando Velasco; signed Chris Spencer; drafted Brian Schwenke

    5. Running Back: Chris Johnson is doing nothing but dancing around the line of scrimmage, looking for holes that aren’t there. He did this in his 2,000-yard season, but two things have changed: 1) he no longer has the blocking and 2) he doesn’t possess the same type of explosion. Signed Shonn Greene and Jalen Parmele

    6. Quarterback: Jake Locker has shown nothing to indicate that he can become a franchise quarterback. The Titans will give him at least one more year to prove himself, but they need to bring in some competition. Signed Ryan Fitzpatrick

    7. Defensive End: Kamerion Wimbley and Derrick Morgan both performed well this past season, but there’s no depth behind them. An early draft pick could be used to remedy this. Drafted Lavar Edwards

    8. Tight End: Jared Cook is about to hit the free-agent market, but he never lived up to potential. Giving Jake Locker a reliable intermediate target can only help him. Signed Delanie Walker

    9. Fullback: Quinn Johnson is a free agent, but he should probably be upgraded anyway. Re-signed Quinn Johnson

    10. Kicker: Rob Bironas will be a free agent in March. Re-signed Rob Bironas

    11. Linebacker: Some depth is needed here with Gerald McRath, Will Witherspoon and Zac Diles heading for free agency. Drafted Zaviar Gooden; signed Moise Fokou

    2013 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Andy Levitre, G, Bills. Age: 27.
      Signed with Titans (6 years, $46.8 million)

      Andy Levitre is a stud guard who excels in pass protection. He also showed off his versatility, playing decently at left tackle in some games in 2011.

    2. Bernard Pollard, S, Ravens. Age: 28.
      Signed with Titans (1 year)

      Bernard Pollard isn’t particularly good in coverage, but he’s awesome in run support and has a knack for knocking out opposing players – especially if they happen to be New England Patriots.

    3. George Wilson, S, Bills. Age: 32.
      Signed with Titans

      George Wilson has been an underrated safety for the Bills over the years. He played well this past season, but was deemed expendable when he suffered a neck injury and 2011 fourth-rounder Da’Norris Searcy played well in his place.

    4. Delanie Walker, TE, 49ers. Age: 29.
      Signed with Titans

      Delanie Walker doesn’t play a big part as a receiving tight end, but he’s a tremendous blocker.

    5. Sammie Lee Hill, DT, Lions. Age: 26.
      Signed with Titans (3 years, $11.4 million)

      Sammie Lee Hill could start for some teams, as he does a decent job of pressuring the quarterback. He just hasn’t had much of a chance in Detroit because he’s been behind Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Corey Williams on the depth chart.

    6. Shonn Greene, RB, Jets. Age: 28.
      Signed with Titans (3 years, $10 million)

      Shonn Greene is just your typical Big Ten plodder. He’s just an average starter, but given all of the talent running backs in the NFL at the moment, he should be a backup.

    7. Ropati Pitoitua (RFA), DE/DT, Chiefs. Age: 28.
      Signed with Titans

      Ropati Pitoitua has served as a solid rotational defensive lineman for the Chiefs. He’s solid in run support and tallied two sacks in a game against the Chargers.

    8. Barry Richardson, OT, Rams. Age: 27.
      Signed with Titans

      Kansas City fans remember Barry Richardson as an inept right tackle, but he actually improved with the Rams. I still wouldn’t be comfortable with him as my starter, but he at least established himself as a top-notch backup and quality spot-starter.

    9. Jalen Parmele, RB, Jaguars. Age: 26.
      Signed with Titans

      Jalen Parmele didn’t look half-bad in two brief stints against the Texans and Titans, rushing for a combined 125 yards on 32 carries. Unfortunately, he tore his groin in the latter contest, so we haven’t seen much of him.

    10. Rob Turner, C/G/OT, Rams. Age: 29.
      Signed with Titans

      Rob Turner had a decent 2012 campaign for the Rams. He played center and guard, and he’s capable of lining up at right tackle as well.

    11. Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills. Age: 30.
      Signed with Titans (2 years)

      Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for a career-high 3,832 yards in 2011 and maintained a 23-16 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2012. Those numbers look solid, but Fitzpatrick is more of a very good backup or just a spot starter. His weak arm should prevent him from landing another starting gig.

    12. Chris Spencer, C, Bears. Age: 31. — Signed with Titans (1 year)
    13. Kevin Walter, WR, Texans. Age: 32. — Signed with Titans
    14. Moise Fokou, ILB, Colts. Age: 28. — Signed with Titans

    Tennessee Titans Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Rob Bironas, K, Titans. Age: 35.
      Re-signed with Titans (2 years, $6.6 million)

      Rob Bironas connected on 24-of-30 attempts in 2012 – the first time he didn’t drill at least 84.4 percent of his kicks since 2007. He’ll likely rebound; he hit 6-of-7 tries from 50-plus in 2011.

    2. Fernando Velasco, C, Titans. Age: 28.
      Tendered by Titans (2nd round)

      Fernando Velasco seemingly came out of nowhere to be a very effective center for the Titans in 2012. He also played some left guard.

    3. Jared Cook, TE, Titans. Age: 26.
      Signed with Rams (5 years)

      Jared Cook has tons of potential, but has never developed. He hauled in 49 receptions for 759 yards in 2011, but regressed this past season. That could be blamed on poor quarterbacking though, so some team should take a chance on him.

    4. Darius Reynaud, KR, Titans. Age: 28.
      Re-signed with Titans (1 year)

      Darius Reynaud scored three special-teams touchdowns this year – two in one game against the Jaguars.

    5. SenDerrick Marks, DT, Titans. Age: 26.
      Signed with Jaguars (1 year)

      SenDerrick Marks isn’t particularly good at anything, but he’s not really bad at anything either. He’s a serviceable spot starter.

    6. Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Titans. Age: 38.
      Signed with Colts (2 years)

      Matt Hasselbeck’s days as a starter are long gone, but he proved that he can still be a very capable backup. He threw seven touchdowns to five interceptions in eight games last season.

    7. Deuce Lutui, G, Titans. Age: 30.
    8. Leroy Harris, G, Titans. Age: 29. — Signed with Lions
    9. Gerald McRath, OLB, Titans. Age: 27.
    10. Leger Douzable, DT, Titans. Age: 28.
    11. Kevin Matthews (RFA), C/G, Titans. Age: 26.
    12. Jordan Babineaux, S, Titans. Age: 31.
    13. Javon Ringer, RB, Titans. Age: 26.
    14. Ryan Mouton, CB, Titans. Age: 26.
    15. Quinn Johnson, FB, Titans. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Titans
    16. Will Witherspoon, OLB, Titans. Age: 33.
    17. Jarius Wynn, DE, Titans. Age: 27. — Signed with Chargers
    18. Zac Diles, ILB, Titans. Age: 28. — Signed with Chiefs
    19. Keyunta Dawson, DE, Titans. Age: 27.
    20. Kyle DeVan, G, Titans. Age: 28.
    21. Dave Ball, DE, Titans. Age: 33.
    22. Mitch Petrus, G, Titans. Age: 26.

    2013 NFL Free Agent Positions:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades

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