2012 NFL Free Agency: How the Tennessee Titans Won Without Peyton Manning
Much has been made about the Tennessee Titans failure to acquire Peyton Manning. Many fans feel that the week-long effort resulted in the Titans missing out on some high-profile free agents such as defensive ends Mario Williams and John Abraham. However, fear not Titans fans, here are five ways that the Titans are better for having come up short in the pursuit for Manning.
Steve Hutchinson Signing
The signing of All-Pro offensive guard Steve Hutchinson was largely viewed as a way to attract Manning. However, for a Titans offensive line regarded as being weak at run blocking and devoid of a "mean streak," Hutchinson can fill two needs: replace the rapidly declining free agent Jake Scott and bring a level of intensity to the line that has been lacking since the loss of Kevin Mawae in 2010.
Missing out on John Abraham
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The Tennessee Titans were the 31st ranked team at getting to the passer last year. All indications were that the team was prepared to spend big on a defensive end—perhaps too big—until Peyton Manning diverted resources. Abraham, now on the tail-end of his career at 33 years old, was reportedly looking for a contract in the cap-busting range of $12 million.
Missing out on Mario Williams
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Following the Titans' entrance into the Manning sweepstakes, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that the Titans were gearing up to make a run at Mario Williams, but had to put that on hold for Manning.
Williams ended up commanding a staggering $100 million contract for the Buffalo Bills. Considering that "Super Mario" has spent significant time of the last two seasons on the sideline, this may also be a bullet dodged for the Titans.
The Signing of Kamerion Wimbley
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Had the Titans not pursued Peyton Manning, they likely would have overpaid for Williams or Abraham and missed out on a dominant—and cheaper—pass-rusher in Kamerion Wimbley. Wimbley, who has played most of his career out of position as a 3-4 OLB, has racked up 42.5 sacks in his career and manages to get pressure 16 percent of the time, best for sixth in the league. While he may not put up the eye-popping numbers of Williams, he is a guy that the Titans can build their young defense around.
The Front Office Has Proven Itself
Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of ManningMania was how efficient the front office was. Although the Titans did not give up a ransom for Williams or Abraham, they did show a willingness to divert from the standard "second-tier" free agents.
Furthermore, the Titans managed to bring in a number of free agents while wooing Manning. Centers Scott Wells and Chris Meyers, along with Hutchinson, visited during that time period. As soon as Manning chose Denver, the Titans immediately brought in the best free agent left (Kamerion Wimbley) and did not let him leave without a contract.