2012 NFL Free Agents: Top 5 out of Tennessee

G. HealyCorrespondent IIJanuary 3, 2012

2012 NFL Free Agents: Top 5 out of Tennessee

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    As the Tennessee Titans cleared out their lockers Monday following a 9-7 2011 campaign, there are a lot of questions about where this team is headed going into 2012.   

    For fans, the most difficult part of the offseason is watching free agents leave. The players you spent the season rooting for might be playing for a new team next year. For some fans, this grueling ritual might include their favorite player, or for other fans, it might be a celebrated departure making room for a younger player to make a name for themselves.

    For the Tennessee Titans, the upcoming offseason will see 20 free agents have decisions made about them. Will they stay in Tennessee or will they move on to other teams? While certainly a good portion of those 20 will be re-signed, some of those free agents will have a bigger impact on this team than others.

    Let's take a look at the five free agents with the most impact on the Tennessee Titans.  

CB Cortland Finnegan

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    Cornerback Cortland Finnegan has been a staple in Tennessee over the last six years. The 27-year-old Finnegan made a name for himself by being feisty and sometimes "dirty." Consistently mentioned in conversations about who is the "dirtiest player in the NFL." When he isn't getting overly chippy, Finnegan has shown himself to be a fine cornerback and the defensive caption and anchor of the defense in Tennessee. 

    Staying or Going?

    My take on Finnegan, and all players for that matter, is that they know their situation better than I do. Everything coming out of Tennessee at this point is that Finnegan believes his days as a Tennessee Titan are over. Not resigning Finnegan would be a mistake in my opinion. He has made it clear he loves the Titans and wants to finish his career in Nashville. Why wouldn't you want a guy back who loves your organization and can play his position better than anyone else on your roster?  

FB Ahmard Hall

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    Fullback Ahmard Hall just finished his sixth season as a Tennessee Titan, and it has been a trying season for the former Marine. 

    Hall started out the season suspended for a violation of the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances. Hall served a four-game suspension and later claimed taking Adderall to help him stay awake on a cross-country drive was responsible for the positive test.

    That was the first encounter Titan fans had with Hall in 2011. The final glimpse they got of him was watching him nearly fumble the season away while trying to kill clock to seal a victory. On a standard run play designed to just be a short gain to move the clock, Hall was hit and fumbled. He was helped off the field and later diagnosed with a concussion. While the play ultimately would have had no impact on the season one way or another, at that point in the day, the Titans needed a victory to stay alive in the playoff hunt. Hall's fumble nearly destroyed that possibility and some fans might hold a bit of a grudge against him moving forward.

    Staying or Going?

    If this were a year ago, I would say there is no way Hall leaves via free agency. The truth is though, that during his suspension, the Titans saw production out of Quinn Johnson. Hall has held onto the notion that he was an integral part of the success of the Titans run game over the last six years. While this may have been true in the past, it wasn't true this season. The Titans run game struggled all year, and without Hall in the lineup they saw equal or better production from his replacement. The Titans will most likely let Hall walk as they look to revamp their running game in 2012. 

S Michael Griffin

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    Safety Michael Griffin has had five years in Tennessee that has been up and down. Coming out of Texas, the Titans wanted to convert Griffin to a cornerback. He made it clear that is not what he wanted. After a one year try at corner, the Titans gave him what he wanted and moved him back to safety. Working with Chris Hope, he had an excellent 2008 season and landed in the Pro Bowl. Tough seasons in 2009 and 2010 left Griffin claiming off the field family issues, and nagging injuries responsible for his poor play. 

    Staying or Going?

    With Cortland Finnegan and Chris Hope possibly leaving, the Titans might not be able to afford letting Griffin walk. This is of course as long as the Titans can afford Griffin in general. I feel as though the market will determine if Griffin stays or goes. If Griffin gets offers from other teams, it's almost guaranteed it will be more than he would get in Tennessee. The key question here is does anyone want Michael Griffin, and what is he worth to them?

G Jake Scott

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    Jake Scott was a big free-agent acquisition years ago when the Titans lured him away from the Colts. Another beneficiary of the Titans run game success over the past few years may turn out to be the first victim of the poor run game performance of 2011. While still a decent guard, the Titans need to revamp their offensive line, and the Titans aren't making changes at the tackle position.

    Staying or Going? 

    I do not expect Jake Scott to return to the Titans. Tennessee will revamp their offensive line this offseason. The guard and center position will be scrutinized, and the Titans will look for replacements at those spots. Jake Scott had a nice run in Tennessee and has a solid resume moving forward though I do not believe it will be in Nashville.

S Jordan Babineaux

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    Safety Jordan Babineaux came into Tennessee via free agency last offseason and did a good job of making a name for himself. He took the opportunities he was given and by midseason he was the starter. His counterpart Chris Hope, also a free agent this offseason, was plagued by injuries most of the year. Even when he came back though, he didn't see the field as much as Babineaux.

    Staying or Going? 

    I think the Titans will re-sign Babineaux. While their entire secondary is coming up on free agency at the same time, players like Griffin and Finnegan will be expecting more offers and opportunity than someone like Babineaux. Babineaux has typically been a backup, but has taken his opportunities the Titans gave him and did a good job of being who they needed him to be. While he isn't a flashy free agent, and he isn't going to get a huge pay day, he has worth in Tennessee. If a worst case scenario is having Babineaux playing safety next season, I think the Titans will live with that. They would still need a strong supporting cast around him though.