Predicting Landing Spots for Tennessee Titans' 2012 Free Agents
The Titans have some big names entering free agency this season: Cortland Finnegan, Michael Griffin and Jason Jones are among the bigger names, but there are 15 total guys that will be on the open market in 2012.
The Titans certainly have the cap room to re-sign whichever ones they want, so which ones will return and which ones will leave for greener (maybe) pastures?
Read on for some wild speculation about where they'll go.
Ken Amato, LS
Long snapper isn't the most critical position on a roster. Because of this, I don't see the Titans getting in a bidding war with other teams for Ken Amato.
On the other hand, it's unlikely that they'll send scouts to look around for a replacement. Amato is 34 years old, but again, he's a long snapper; he can play until he's pretty old.
Jake Ingram, a long snapper from Hawaii, was signed to the Titans' practice squad, and since he's only 26, he may be Amato's replacement.
Still, Amato will probably re-sign with the Titans.
Jordan Babineaux, S
Jordan Babineaux actually had a pretty good season with the Titans. He certainly played better than Chris Hope (more on him later), gathering a ridiculous 93 tackles, 72 of them solo.
Currently, every safety on the Titans roster except Robert Johnson is a free agent. That means the Titans have to either draft replacements, re-sign or get more safeties in free agency.
Jordan Babineaux will be 30 next season, but he had a great year and deserves another contract. Since he's played both free safety and strong safety in his career, he'd also be great for the Titans to re-sign because of his versatility.
I think he'll end up back on the Titans again.
Dave Ball, DE
Dave Ball had a great year in 2010. He had seven sacks before he was sidelined with an injury 11 games into the season. For the record, Jason Babin had the same number of sacks as Ball when Ball was injured, and he went on to rack up 11 total.
However, this year, Ball didn't see a lot of action. He was a free agent last year and the Titans only signed him to a one-year deal, showing that they didn't trust his abilities very much.
At 31 years old, he's on the decline, but is still a decent rotational player. He could re-sign with the Titans, but with a few young defensive ends on the roster and a pass-rusher high on the draft priority list, I don't expect Ball to stay in Nashville.
At 255 lbs., Ball has the size to move into a 3-4 system, and if I had to bet on it, I'd say he'll end up on a team that's just recently made, or is currently making, that switch, and needs guys who'll fit the system.
My money is on the Colts.
Ahmard Hall, FB
It's tough to figure out what to do with Ahmard Hall. He had a really up and down season and was suspended for four games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Furthermore, running back production was at an all-time low for the Titans. While I place most of the blame on Chris Johnson, Ahmard Hall didn't look as good as he used to, and the Titans may let him go.
On the other hand, he's a high character guy who's done a lot of good for the Titans over the years. It wouldn't surprise me to see him re-signed, but in a diminished role.
However, I think he'll ultimately sign with someone else, but as a fullback, he's hard to place. Any team could be interested in signing him. For some reason, I like the Bengals or the Bears as potential landing spots. Just a gut feeling.
William Hayes, DE
William Hayes is almost as good as Dave Ball, but he's younger, so he's more likely to be re-signed as a backup defensive end.
Hayes got a significant amount of playing time in this season. With Jason Jones and Derrick Morgan fighting nagging injuries all season, Hayes saw action in 10 games and even got one start.
However, he never had much to show from it. Because of this, he's going to be relegated to a backup/rotational role.
Other teams will be interested in him if the Titans aren't, but like the Titans, only as a backup. Because of this, I think he'll stay where he is with a long-term, low-paying contract.
Chris Hope, SS
Chris Hope has been a weakness in the Titans backfield for years. I was surprised he wasn't cut after last season to save Bud Adams some money.
He's 31 years old now, and will be 32 early into next season. He was a Pro Bowler in 2008, but since then, he's declined every year. Last season, he quickly lost his starting job to Jordan Babineaux.
He'll want a bigger payday than teams are willing to give him, and I think he'll end up retiring near the end of free agency.
Jason Jones, DT
Jason Jones was one of the best interior pass-rushers on the Titans' roster until this season, when he was moved to defensive end and struggled.
If the Titans re-sign him, they'll probably want to move him back to defensive tackle. Of course, since he's averaged four sacks a season on limited play, lots of teams will be interested in signing him.
In this free-agent class, Jones is probably one of the top 10 defensive tackles in free agency this year, so he could look for a team that will give him a big payday. Philadelphia would be a good fit, as would Denver.
I'm hoping the Titans re-sign him, but I'm thinking he'll end up in Philly under his old coach, Jim Washburn.
Barrett Ruud, MLB
Barrett Ruud was brought in to replace Stephen Tulloch, but he was a big disappointment. With Colin McCarthy already playing at a higher level, there's no place on the Titans for Ruud.
Ruud was paid just over $4 million for his one year on the Titans, that's definitely more than they'd be willing to spend on someone who's a secondary option at best.
However, a team that might be willing to pick him up would be the New York Giants. They need an improvement at middle linebacker badly enough to pick him up, especially since they're drafting at the very end of every round.
Washington could also be a fit. London Fletcher is great, but he probably doesn't have many more years left in him (he's 36). Any play next season could be his last, so they need a backup or a guy who can rotate out with him.
Either team could make a bid for Ruud because Tennessee won't.
Jake Scott, OG
I think Jake Scott, longtime Titans guard and current union representative for the team, will finish up his career with the Titans.
Scott is old, but not too old (30) to play for a little while longer. Besides, the interior line was a big problem for the Titans last season and they may not be able to upgrade both center and guard this offseason.
If that's the case, they'll need Scott to come in as a rotational player. He's still a great pass-blocker, it's just that he's too small to be a powerful run-blocker.
However, at his age and size, I doubt he's going to shop himself around too much, Besides, Mike Munchak is connected to the offensive line players that have been with the Titans for a while; he's going to be hesitant to let them walk, even if they were disappointing this year.
Tim Shaw, LB
With Colin McCarthy taking over the starting job at middle linebacker and Ruud off the team (probably), the Titans will need a backup middle linebacker. That guy will probably be Tim Shaw.
Shaw has been with several teams since he was drafted in 2007 from Linebacker U (Penn State). He hasn't produced much in his two seasons with the Titans, but he'll just be a backup, so that isn't much of a problem.
He'll likely stick with the Titans as the middle linebacker backup of the future.
Michael Griffin, FS
Michael Griffin has been a top 10 safety for years now, but he has a tendency to give up big plays and will demand a big payday. Neither of those are things the Titans like, so he's gone.
Griffin enters free agency at just the right time for a safety; the draft class of safeties is pretty weak, and the free-agent class isn't much better.
He happens to be near the top of it.
Griffin could get a huge contract from a team that really needs safety help, but I think he'll end up reuniting with his former coach in St. Louis. He'll get enough money to keep him happy and he'll play for a coach that liked him enough to grab him in the first round.
Besides, St. Louis needs help everywhere on defense, so he's a fit.
Cortland Finnegan, CB
I really, really hate to see Cortland Finnegan go, but chances are that's what's going to happen.
Outside of Lardarius Webb and maybe Brandon Carr and Carlos Rogers, Finnegan is the best cornerback in free agency this year. He can get a very big contract.
As a top corner, he'll be an upgrade to at least one corner spot on any team in the league, so he could go anywhere and be a fit.
However, his best bets are either St. Louis or Detroit.
His former defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz, is now the head coach of the Detroit Lions, who could use an upgrade at corner. If he heads to Michigan, he'll also reunite with former teammates Stephen Tulloch and Kyle Vanden Bosch, who also followed Schwartz.
In St. Louis, he'll likely keep playing next to Michael Griffin and under Jeff Fisher, his former head coach.
Just like with Griffin, I think that Finnegan will end up in St. Louis. He and Fisher seemed to always be on the same page and respected one another, and of course, he'll get plenty of cash anywhere he goes.
If he's not in either Missouri or Michigan this time next year, I'll be shocked.
It's not the nicest thing to say, but Donnie Avery, Patrick Bailey and Anthony Smith are not the most important players on the roster. Whether they re-sign with the Titans or go somewhere else, they'll be earning league minimum or just above it and will strictly be depth players.
Of all those, I think Anthony Smith is the most likely to re-sign. He isn't any better than the others, but he plays a position where the need for the Titans is greater.
But because of their marginal abilities, any of these guys could end up anywhere.