What If the Tennessee Titans Go Crazy in Free Agency?
About a month ago, I incorrectly guessed that the Titans wouldn't have a ton of cap space left for free agency this season. Marlon Maloney, one of the other Titans writers, corrected me, and now I have a source with an actual figure.
This season, the Titans will have roughly $32 million to spend in free agency. And if they cut Chris Johnson (unlikely as it may be) to save another $8 million, the Titans could have a whopping third of their total salary available.
Tennessee rarely gets big names in free agency, but what if things changed this year? They have enough money to bring in at least one superstar player, so who would it be?
Here is my list of superstars, one from every position of need, that the Titans could target in free agency if they want to spend the big bucks.
Mario Williams, DE, Houston Texans
With how well the defense played this year, I'd be shocked if the Texans retained Mario Williams. He played well at 3-4 linebacker, but that's not his natural position. He's a prototypical defensive end and that's all there is to it.
The Titans just happen to run a 4-3 and just happen to need a new defensive end that can consistently pressure the quarterback. Sounds like a match made in heaven.
Mario Williams is a two-time All-Pro, and he has been a consistently great player his whole career with the Texans. He'd be a great fit on the Titans squad.
Chances are he'd get a deal similar to the one that Charles Johnson got in 2010, which was a six-year, $72 million deal, but he might come a little cheaper with his injury last season.
Mario Manningham, WR, New York Giants
I swear I'm not just picking guys named Mario, but Manningham would be a great fit for the Titans and is obtainable.
With Victor Cruz emerging as one of the best wide receivers in the game, the Giants are going to have to restructure his contract. With Hakeem Nicks there as well, there's no room on the team for Mario Manningham, who could be a No. 1 receiver on some teams.
The Titans don't need a No. 1 receiver; they have that in Kenny Britt. What they do need is better depth at the position, and Manningham would provide that.
At his age (just 26), he could also be signed to a pretty long contract. With Manningham on the field next to Kenny Britt and Jared Cook (or Nate Washington on third downs), QB Jake Locker would have a pretty easy time when he takes over the starting job next season.
It's hard to say what Manningham will want out of a contract, but with a strong class of receivers out there, he could be cheaper than you might think.
Carl Nicks, OG, New Orleans Saints
Did I mention he's one of the best interior linemen in the league? He'd be a huge upgrade over either Leroy Harris or Jake Scott and would open up huge holes for whoever is running the ball for the Titans.
Carl Nicks is absolutely superb as a guard, but he'll be awfully expensive. His teammate, Jahri Evans, signed a seven-year, $56 million contract. I don't think that Nicks will be that expensive, but I think he'll be somewhere between that and Justin Blalock's six-year, $38 million dollar contract from 2011.
LaRon Landry, SS, Washington Redskins
The Titans will need help at both safety positions this offseason since Michael Griffin is likely off to St. Louis. Strong safety has been a concern for years, and if the Titans want an upgrade over the 30-year-old Jordan Babineaux, then LaRon Landry might be the best available.
Landry had some injuries this season but has had an otherwise stellar career.
In 2010, Landry had 85 total tackles, a sack, an interception and eight deflected passes. And that was in just nine games.
The year before, he had 90 tackles, a sack, an interception and six deflected passes.
Landry is a great safety, and he'd be a huge upgrade at a position of need, and he wouldn't be as expensive as some other players.
Brandon Carr, CB, Kansas City Chiefs
While I think it's more likely that the Titans will replace Cortland Finnegan with a draft pick from this ridiculously strong corner class, they could always grab one in free agency.
I'd prefer Cortland Finnegan to be resigned, but if you're gonna go for broke, pick up Brandon Carr.
Carr had a career high four interceptions this season, and he deflected another 15 passes. In 2010, he deflected 25 passes.
Carr is a ball-hawk of the highest caliber, and he'd thrive in Tennessee's zone-defense system. Creating turnovers is certainly something that the Titans need to improve on, so he would help the defensive backs in that respect.
Brandon Carr won't get a deal as big as Nnamdi Asomugha's five-year, $60 million dollar contract, but he'll be pretty expensive (I'm thinking $35 to 40 million for a five-year deal).
Scott Wells, C, Green Bay Packers
I've written before that bringing Scott Wells back to Tennessee would be a great idea.
He is 30-years-old, but the Titans have had success with older centers in the past (Kevin Mawae ringing any bells?). Furthermore, he's from Tennessee originally, so he may be open to the idea of heading back home.
This was one of his best seasons, and he's probably the best free-agent center that can be signed. Furthermore, as a center, he'll probably be a cheap signing in the grand scheme of free agency.
I expect his deal to be about a four-year, $20 million dollar deal (about what Olin Kreutz got in 2002).
Erin Henderson, OLB, Minnesota Vikings
The Titans are set at Sam and Mike linebacker for years to come. Akeem Ayers showed a lot of promise, and Colin McCarthy is already better than one-year veteran Barrett Ruud. However, they still have a need at Will.
If they decide to fill that vacancy with a free agent, Erin Henderson would undoubtedly be one of their first choices.
Henderson is still very young; he'll turn 26 just before the season starts, and he gathered up 70 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a couple of deflected passes in only 11 games as a starter.
He came out of nowhere this past season, so it's possible that the Titans won't have to sign him to a big contract either.
Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears
This is in the unlikely scenario that the Titans cut Chris Johnson and decide to replace him with another big name running back.
Undoubtedly, the top running back in free agency this season is Arian Foster, but the Texans are going to franchise him. If they don't, they'll get him enough money to stick around.
Before his injury, Forte was on pace to rush for 1300 yards, and that's behind Chicago's awful line.
He's a hard working, do-it-all running back who would fit right in to Tennessee's scheme. If you need to replace a superstar running back with a superstar running back, then Forte would be the way to go.