2019 NFL Offseason: Tennessee Titans

Tennessee Titans (Last Year: 9-7)

2019 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Ryan Tannehill, WR Adam Humphries, G Rodger Saffold, DE/DT Brent Urban, DE/OLB Cameron Wake.
Early Draft Picks:
DT Jeffery Simmons, WR A.J. Brown, G/OT Nate Davis, S/CB/LB Amani Hooker. Titans Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
TE Luke Stocker, G Josh Kline, G Quinton Spain, DE/OLB Derrick Morgan, DE/OLB Brian Orakpo, NT Bennie Logan.

2019 Tennessee Titans Offense:
The Titans just experienced yet another year comprised of Marcus Mariota injuries. Mariota has missed action in every single season of his young career thus far, and there’s no reason to expect things to be different in 2019. It was especially disheartening to see Mariota fail to even suit up for a must-win Week 17 battle against the Colts. He sat out, prompting the atrocious Blaine Gabbert to start. Gabbert was predictably horrible, so Tennessee found a capable backup behind Mariota in Ryan Tannehill. Even still, the Titans will need Mariota to remain on the field for all 16 games for the first time, but that is unlikely to happen.

Tennessee took a precaution beyond signing Tannehill. The front office also signed Rodger Saffold in free agency. Saffold was an excellent guard for the Rams, so he’s a welcome addition to an offensive line that surrendered 11 sacks in an embarrassing loss to the Ravens in the middle of the season. Saffold will make sure that doesn’t happen again, as he’ll be a much-needed upgrade in the interior of the offensive line. Unfortunately for the Titans, they still need help in that area, as center Ben Jones is pedestrian, while there’s a huge hole at right guard. Someone named Corey Levin is the favorite to start at the position.

The situation is far better at tackle. Taylor Lewan is one of the better blind-side protectors in the NFL, while Jack Conklin tends to do a solid job on the other side. Conklin has seen his play regress a bit after a strong rookie campaign, but he’s still a quality blocker.

With a slightly upgraded offensive line, the Titans will be able to run the ball just as well, if not better in 2019. Derrick Henry was stellar at the end of the season, rushing for 585 yards in the final four games of the season. Henry credited his improved play to some careful film study during the Week 8 bye. If Henry learned from his mistakes, he should be able to pick up where he left off in 2019. Dion Lewis, meanwhile, will continue to serve as a potent receiving threat out of the backfield.

As for the downfield receivers, they will be better this upcoming season, thanks to a couple of additions. The Titans began by signing Adam Humphries in free agency. The former Buccaneer is a reliable slot receiver who will serve as Mariota’s safety valve, especially if tight end Delanie Walker can’t recover from an ankle injury that limited him to just one game in 2018. Tennessee then used a second-round pick on Ole Miss wide receiver A.J. Brown. Unlike his former Rebel teammate, D.K. Metcalf, Brown is a good football player and knows how to run routes. Humphries and Brown will join Corey Davis is a talented receiving corps. Davis, formerly the No. 5 overall pick from the 2017 NFL Draft, has been inconsistent in his career thus far, but told the media that his chemistry with Mariota is growing by the day.

2019 Tennessee Titans Defense:
Despite some big-name additions made to the defensive side of the ball during last year’s free agency period, the Titans finished 19th in defensive efficiency. There’s reason to expect that ranking to be a bit worse this upcoming campaign.

The biggest problem the Titans have is a severe lack of an edge rush. They lost Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan this offseason, meaning their top two outside pass rushers are Cameron Wake and Harold Landry. Wake was once a great player, but he turned 37 this offseason. He notched six sacks last year, which was tied for the lowest total in a single season since his rookie campaign in 2009. Landry, meanwhile, was a second-round pick last April. He collected 4.5 sacks as a rookie. There’s a chance he could take a big step, but he’s a question mark at the moment.

A downgraded pass rush will obviously adversely affect the secondary. Making matters worse, arguably the team’s top cornerback, Adoree Jackson, is coming off foot surgery and may not be 100 percent to begin the season. Jackson, if healthy, will start across from Malcolm Butler, who signed a 5-year, $61.25 million contract in free agency last spring. However, Butler struggled in his first year in Tennessee. He could be the latest of former Patriots to fail to live up to expectations once separated from Bill Belichick. Logan Ryan, another player who once took the field in New England, should be decent in the slot once again.

Tennessee’s best defensive back is safety Kevin Byard, who was somehow snubbed from the Pro Bowl last year. This is evidence that the Pro Bowl voters have no idea what they’re doing, as Byard was one of the top safeties in the NFL. He’ll start next to Kenny Vaccaro, who signed a 4-year, $26 million contract this offseason. Vaccaro is a quality player when healthy, but he has a dubious injury history. He has played a full season just once in his career.

While Byard deserved to be in the Pro Bowl, Tennessee’s best defensive player continued to be Jurrell Casey. The stellar defensive lineman was stout versus the run, all while collecting seven sacks. Casey could be part of a terrific tandem up front eventually, as the Titans used their first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft on Jeffery Simmons. The Mississippi State product is unlikely to play this upcoming season because of a torn ACL, but he should be a dynamite player when healthy. Simmons was considered a top-five prospect prior to some off-the-field issues surfacing and the knee injury occurring, so he was a tremendous long-term acquisition. In the present, however, Casey will start along with Da’Quon Jones and Brent Urban, both of whom hold up extremely well against ground attacks.

As for the linebacking corps, the Titans have three talented linebackers at their disposal in Jayon Brown, Wesley Woodyard and Rashaan Evans. Brown is not very good at holding up against the run, but thrives in coverage, so he’ll be used on passing downs. Woodyard should continue to be a three-down player, while Evans, a first-round pick last April, figures to improve from his mediocre rookie campaign.

2019 Tennessee Titans Schedule and Intangibles:
Kicker Ryan Succop was 26-of-30 in 2018, which includes 3-of-4 beyond 50-plus. However, he missed three extra points.

Punter Brett Kern was 27th in net average in 2016. He improved all the way up to first in that category in 2017. He finished eighth last year.

Tennessee’s special teams were mediocre last year. The team beat its opponents on kickoffs, but was outgained on punt returns.

The Titans don’t have a very easy schedule. They have a rough start in the early going, as four of their first six games are on the road against the Browns, Jaguars, Falcons and Broncos. They have some easier games later – they host the Bills and Buccaneers and also travel to Oakland – but they could be in a hole by then.

2019 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.

2019 Tennessee Titans Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2019 Tennessee Titans Analysis: It’s going to be difficult for the Titans to reach the playoffs. They simply can’t count on Marcus Mariota to remain healthy for all 16 games. Meanwhile, the defense will take a step backward in 2019. That will change when Jeffery Simmons can take the field, so perhaps Tennessee will be able to make another postseason run in 2020.

Projection: 7-9 (Tied 3rd in AFC South)

2018 Projection: 7-9. 2018 Actual Result: 9-7.
2017 Projection: 11-5. 2017 Actual Result: 9-7.
2016 Projection: 6-10. 2016 Actual Result: 9-7.

NFL Draft Team Grade: A Grade

Goals Entering the 2019 NFL Draft: The Titans gave some help to Marcus Mariota this offseason by signing Rodger Saffold and Adam Humphries. Those were nice moves, but they weren’t enough. The Titans need one more receiver, a tight end and another blocker. Meanwhile, their pedestrian pass rush absolutely must be upgraded.

2019 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The locals who attended the 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville had to be thrilled regarding what their team did this weekend. Every single pick of Tennessee’s was graded as a “B” or higher.

Perhaps the one thing that some may complain about is the Jeffery Simmons selection. Simmons had been cleared for negative character traits stemming from the infamous video of his, so the only concern is his torn ACL. He likely won’t take the field in 2019, but he’ll be a stellar player in 2020 and beyond. The Titans grabbed some players who could help afterward, obtaining an outright steal in A.J. Brown and good bargains like Nate Davis and Amani Hooker. Brown will be a much-needed weapon across from Corey Davis for Marcus Mariota to utilize, while Nate Davis should be able to start as a rookie in the interior of Tennessee’s offensive line, which surrendered 11 sacks in a single game last year. Tennessee made some excellent late-round picks as well, including edge rusher D’Andre Walker.

If I had one criticism of the Titans’ draft class, it’s that the team didn’t draft a second offensive lineman. Still, Tennessee did extremely well in the 2019 NFL Draft.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

19. Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State B Grade
This is a very interesting pick. If Jeffery Simmons hadn’t torn his ACL, he would’ve been drafted in the top 10; perhaps even as high as No. 4 overall. There’s also a video of Simmons hitting a woman when he was in high school, but he was defending his sister, and he has grown since. He has turned his life around, so this should not be an issue going forward. The only worry here with Simmons is that the Titans won’t be able to use him in 2019, which might be a make-or-break year for Marcus Mariota. Shouldn’t the Titans have gotten Mariota some help? Probably, but Simmons is such an outstanding talent that I can’t grade this poorly.

51. A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss A+ Grade
This is another favorite pick of mine. A.J. Brown was a spectacular player at Ole Miss, unlike D.K. Metcalf. Brown would’ve been even more productive in school if the program wasn’t such a mess at the very end. I thought Brown should’ve gone in the back end of the first round, so I absolutely love this value. Brown also fills a need across from Corey Davis.

82. Nate Davis, G/OT, Charlotte B+ Grade
Nate Davis played tackle at Charlotte, but he’ll slide inside to guard in the pros. He’ll fill a huge need for the Titans, who surrendered 11 sacks to the Ravens in a game last year. That cannot happen again, and Davis will help. Davis is a better run blocker at this stage, so he’ll open some big running lanes for Derrick Henry. He fits the range in the third round.

116. Amani Hooker, S/CB/LB, Iowa A- Grade
Amani Hooker provides solid value in the middle of the fourth round, as I thought there was a good chance he could sneak into the back end of Day 2. Hooker is very versatile, as he can play safety, cornerback and even linebacker. He’ll be a nice chess piece for the Titans’ defense.

168. D’Andre Walker, DE/OLB, Georgia A+ Grade
I don’t understand why D’Andre Walker fell to the fifth round, and if the NFL Network would stop showing promos of NFL100, we may have been told why. Walker was a terrific player over the past two years at Georgia. He can rush the passer well, hold up against the run and drop into coverage. The Titans had a big need at outside linebacker, and Walker should be able to fill it.

188. David Long, LB, West Virginia A Grade
I had David Long being chosen in the fourth round, so I love the value the Titans are getting at this selection. Long is undersized and needs to improve his tackling ability, but he’s a speedy player who should do well in coverage. Long should provide a boost on special teams as well.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The Titans had a chance to make the playoffs at the very end, but Marcus Mariota once again missed the final game of the season. Mariota will be brought back for at least one more year, but it might be time to wonder if he can be the franchise quarterback, given his poor durability.

Offseason Moves:
  • Titans sign DE/DT Brent Urban
  • Titans acquire QB Ryan Tannehill from Titans for draft picks
  • Titans cut G Josh Kline
  • Titans sign DE/OLB Cameron Wake
  • Titans sign G Rodger Saffold
  • Titans sign WR Adam Humphries

    Team Needs:
    1. Two Guards: It should be clear by now that Marcus Mariota desperately needs protection. He was sacked 11 times in one game, after all. The interior of the offensive line is the primary culprit, as both guards will need to be replaced. Someone like Cody Ford would make sense in the opening round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Signed Rodger Saffold

    2. Nose Tackle: Bennie Logan was a big disappointment this season. Austin Johnson is a mediocre player. The Titans could stand to add a monstrous nose tackle to the middle of their defensive line.

    3. Defensive End: Jurrell Casey is one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL, but the Titans don’t have much else on their defensive front. They need to improve their lacking pass rush.

    4. Cornerback: Tennessee had a poor pass defense in 2018. An improved pass rush would help, but the team also needs help in the secondary. Malcolm Butler did not live up to the big contract he signed last offseason.

    5. Backup Quarterback: Usually, backup quarterback needs are toward the end. This one is not because Mariota has been so unreliable throughout his career. Traded for Ryan Tannehill

    6. Wide Receiver: Corey Davis has shown promise as a No. 1 receiver going forward, while Taywan Taylor has flashed at times. The Titans could use another receiver to help Mariota. Signed Adam Humphries

    7. Edge Rusher Depth: Derrick Morgan is an impending free agent, so he’ll need to be replaced if he departs. Signed Cameron Wake

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2019 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Rodger Saffold, G, Rams. Age: 31.
      Signed with Titans (4 years, $44 million; $22.5 million guaranteed)

      Rodger Saffold used to be very injury-prone, but he hasn’t gotten hurt in a couple of years. Saffold turns 31 in June, which is not ideal, but considering that guards can play on a high level into their mid-30s, Saffold should continue to be a solid starter.

    2. Adam Humphries, WR, Buccaneers. Age: 26.
      Signed with Titans (4 years, $36 million)

      Adam Humphries is a quality slot receiver who caught 76 passes for 816 yards and five touchdowns. Humphries’ production has risen every year, and one has to wonder how he’d perform with a coaching staff that knew what it was doing.

    3. Brent Urban, DE/DT, Ravens. Age: 28.
      Signed with Titans

      Brent Urban is a stellar run defender as a rotational defensive lineman, but he offers very little as a pass rusher.

    4. Cameron Wake, DE, Dolphins. Age: 37.
      Signed with Titans (3 years, $23 million)

      Cameron Wake played very well last year, but despite this, he was a half-step slower than usual. This isn’t much of a surprise, as Wake is now 37. He could begin regressing rapidly soon.

    Tennessee Titans Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Derrick Morgan, DE/OLB, Titans. Age: 30.
      Derrick Morgan had his worst year as a pro since his rookie campaign in 2018. He had just half of a sack. However, he was slowed down by a shoulder injury all year, so it’s likely that he’ll bounce back next year. The downside is that he turns 30 this offseason.

    2. Kenny Vaccaro, S, Titans. Age: 28.
      Re-signed with Titans (4 years, $26 million)

      Kenny Vaccaro did a solid job filling in for the injured John Cyprien this past season. He’s a decent starting safety who still has a couple more seasons before he turns 30. He has an extensive injury history, unfortunately.

    3. Bennie Logan, NT, Titans. Age: 29.
      Curiously, Bennie Logan was seldom used in Tennessee. He has played very well in the past, particularly as a run plugger, but he played just a dozen snaps or so per week for the Titans. Perhaps he’ll be used more on another team next year.

    4. Luke Stocker, TE, Titans. Age: 31.
      Signed with Falcons (2 years)

      Luke Stocker doesn’t catch many passes, but he’s an excellent blocking tight end.

    5. Josh Kline, G, Titans. Age: 29.
      Signed with Vikings (3 years, $15.75 million)

      The Titans claimed Josh Kline off waivers from the Patriots three years ago, and the move paid off. Kline had been a solid starter for the Titans prior to 2018. Last offseason, he signed a 4-year, $26 million contract. Perhaps that money got to his head because his play fell off a cliff in 2018.

    6. Quinton Spain, G, Titans. Age: 28.
    7. Brynden Trawick, S/ST, Titans. Age: 29.
    8. Will Compton, ILB, Titans. Age: 30.
    9. Kevin Pamphile, OT, Titans. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Titans
    10. Nate Palmer, ILB, Titans. Age: 29.
    11. Blaine Gabbert, QB, Titans. Age: 29. — Signed with Buccaneers
    12. Austin Pasztor, OT, Titans. Age: 28.
    13. Roger Lewis (RFA), WR, Titans. Age: 25.
    14. Mike Jordan (RFA), CB, Titans. Age: 26.
    15. Kalif Raymond (RFA), WR, Titans. Age: 25.

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

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