The free-agency signing period for the Tennessee Titans hasn't exactly gone as planned, but then again, the "plan" was never really planned to begin with.
Fourteen days ago, no one outside of Titans message boards was seriously entertaining the thought that Peyton Manning might play in Nashville in 2012.
But then Bud Adams decided to go for broke. His pursuit of Manning altered everything that has happened since. The Titans opted to chase Manning instead of Mario Williams, effectively ending their hopes of acquiring a big-time pass-rusher via free agency.
In doing this series all week, I've tried to focus on what teams actually did to get better. Ultimately, the only question that matters when reviewing free agency is: Did the team improve this week?
Who the Titans tried to sign or didn't try to sign doesn't matter as much as who they did sign.
Free Agents Signed: Steve Hutchinson, G; Kamerion Wimbley, DE
The Hutchinson deal is an attempt to get better along the offensive line, and the Wimbley deal is about shutting down the passing game with an improved rush.
As I've stated before, I think the Hutchinson signing, while good, is essentially a lateral move from Jake Scott. I don't believe it makes the Titans markedly better in 2012. What they desperately need is a new center far more than a new guard. Hutchinson is a fine player, but he's also on the wrong side of 34.
Grade the Titans' free agent signings
Wimbley is more intriguing.
First of all, he wasn't cheap. His deal averages out to $7 million a year, and $13.5 million guaranteed is a hefty sum. He's sort of a LB/DE hybrid who can stand up or turn the corner with his hand down, and there's little question he's better than anything the Titans had going to end last year.
At 28, he's not exactly young, but pass-rushers can age well. A five-year deal would take him right through the end of his serviceable years.
What makes him most attractive is that he was a player the Raiders wanted to re-sign, but they couldn't work out a deal. The problem with a great many veteran free agents is that the new team is getting a player the old team had already decided it didn't want. That's not the case here.
Wimbley has had more sacks in each of the past three years than the Titans got from any end last year. His seven sacks in 2011 were just off the combined total of all Titans ends combined (eight).
In grading these four teams this week, I've tried to acknowledge the thought process, while only grading the results. I dislike the Titans' process far more than the Texans' or Colts' or Jags'. However, the results, at least for next year, are better.
Are the Titans better now than last week? Yes. There's no question.
The Titans needed a pass-rusher, and they got the best one available to them. He was expensive, but he is an upgrade.
The Titans spent more money per player in free agency than any of the other teams in the division. They also got the best talent out of the deal. They didn't improve as much as they could have if they had not chased Manning, but they did get better.