Tennessee Titans: 10 Free Agents They Need to Set Their Sights on in 2013
Three weeks into the season, it's becoming clear that the Titans need some help in more than a couple of positions. They need an almost entirely upgraded interior offensive line, another starting quality corner, another starting quality defensive end, a new running back, help at safety and better depth at wide receiver.
That's a lot of needs, and there simply aren't enough high draft picks to fix all of those needs in one season. Luckily for Titans fans, there's free agency.
Given the Titans' needs, this years group of free agents looks like a good one, and the Titans will certainly be able to snag at least one or two of these players in the end. Here are 10 players they should be keeping their eyes on.
Andy Levitre, OG, Buffalo Bills
After watching him this far into the season, I think Steve Hutchinson would be better suited at right guard, where he wouldn't have to pull as often. He's lost a lot of speed over the years, and it shows.
That means that the Titans will be looking for a player that can come in and immediately start at left guard. Andy Levitre fits the bill (no pun intended).
Levitre is part of a Bills offensive line that, so far this season, has not given up a single sack. That is something to take notice of. He was named a part of the NFL's All Rookie team, and has been a consistent pass-blocker for Ryan Fitzpatrick and run-blocker for Fred Jackson.
If the Bills don't turn around and start improving soon, they're going to be in for a long season, and Levitre may want to test the waters elsewhere. If he does, Tennessee should come after him hard.
Levitre is only 26 years old, so the Titans should be able to offer him a long-term deal without much worry. He'd certainly be worth the money.
Matt Slauson, OG, New York Jets
Another young left guard the Titans could take a look at is the Jets' Matt Slauson.
Slauson wasn't an All Rookie, but he's still a fine left guard, and he beat out the much higher draft pick, Vladimir Ducasse, for the spot, so he's clearly a hard worker.
The Jets are a circus right now, and Slauson might want to get out of town once he hits free agency. Like Levitre, he could start immediately at left guard in the long term and free up Hutchinson to move over to the right.
Slauson is not the talent that Levitre is, but he'd still be a big upgrade to the interior line, and he'd probably be a little cheaper as well. Besides, the Titans did pretty well the last time they signed a Jets interior lineman (Mawae).
Antoine Caldwell, OG, Houston Texans
Of course, if the Titans think that Steve Hutchinson is just fine where he is on the left side, then they can always take a natural right guard.
Now, offensive linemen rarely change teams. They usually end up sticking around where they were drafted unless the team they're with can't afford them anymore. Well, the Texans might be in that situation next year with Antoine Caldwell.
The Houston Texans might have the best offensive line in the league right now. Outside of the right tackle, every member of the unit is a standout at their position, and the rushing numbers that the Texans put up speak for themselves.
I don't know if you've noticed, but lately, run-blocking has not been up to par in Tennessee. Caldwell would certainly change that.
Felix Jones, RB, Dallas Cowboys
If the Titans cut ties with Chris Johnson at the end of the season (which I think they will), then they will probably need to get another running back in either the draft or free agency.
Now this year's draft features some very good running backs, but if the Titans think they can do better in free agency and save the draft picks for other positions, then they will.
One place they can start looking is Felix Jones. The Cowboys didn't realize what a talent they had in DeMarco Murray, which is why Jones got the start for the first half of the season. He did fairly well too, rushing for 575 yards and getting 221 more in receiving.
Keep in mind, that's behind a Cowboys interior line which is probably just as bad as the Titans' is. If the Titans were able to beef up their line and bring in Jones, he'd certainly do just fine.
He'd also be signed at a fraction of the cost it would take to retain Chris Johnson, so if the team could save money and improve the run game all in one move.
Rashad Jennings, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
With Maurice Jones-Drew back in the lineup again, I think Rashad Jennings might be tempted to move to a different team so he could see more playing time.
Jennings, like Jones, was a starter briefly, only to be replaced. Like Jones, he's going to want to sign with a team that is willing to give him a shot at starting.
Jennings is a little older than Jones (27), but he has less mileage on him, since he's only had 131 career carries. In 2010, he had a total of 459 rushing yards, 223 receiving yards, and four touchdowns.
He also averaged a very solid 5.5 yards per carry.
There are probably just a few teams that would give Jennings a chance to start, so if Tennessee goes after him, I think they'd have a very good chance of signing him.
Austin Collie, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Austin Collie is entering free agency at a terrible time for him, but a great time for teams that are looking to sign him.
Collie's stock is taking a hit this season since he's playing for a team that's breaking in a rookie quarterback.
So far this season, Collie has seen only one pass go his way. Now he has missed time because of a concussion, but one catch is not a good sign for the rest of the season for him.
That means that teams can buy low and pick up a pretty good depth receiver (which happens to be exactly what the Titans will be looking for). Kenny Britt has spent too much time on injured reserve for the Titans to be comfortable at receiver.
If Kendall Wright busts out, then they can have some breathing room, but since that isn't likely to happen in his rookie season, the Titans will probably be hitting the free agent market to improve.
Collie has inconsistent hands, but he can be a very good receiver. He also seems like one of the receivers who will want to move teams, since he was drafted by the former regime in Indianapolis.
Michael Johnson, DE, Cincinnati Bengals
Two of Cincinnati's defensive ends are going to be free agents this season, and with Dontay Moch and Carlos Dunlap both on the roster already, and a deep, talented class of pass-rushers coming in, the Bengals may not bother trying to retain Michael Johnson.
Now Johnson is coming off a tremendous game where he had six total tackles, three sacks and a deflected pass, but that is far from the norm from him, and I think the demand for him in free agency will reflect that. Connor Barwin, Dwight Freeny and Cliff Avril will be much more courted.
He is, however, a solid player who is just coming into his prime. He also happens to be former teammates with current Titans defensive end Derrick Morgan. The two played together for several years at Georgia Tech, and maybe a reunion is in order.
If Johnson became part of a three-man defensive end rotation with Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley, the Titans wouldn't be so anemic on the edge late in games.
I also think reuniting Morgan and Johnson might be good for both of them. They worked very well together in college; they totaled 16 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss together in 2008. Maybe they can repeat that high level of success with the Titans.
Kenny Phillips, SS, New York Giants
So far this season, the safety play has been terrible, and I don't know whose fault it is. It could be Defensive Coordinator Jerry Gray's, it could be Defensive Backs coach Brett Maxie's or it could just be on the players.
Whatever the problem is, something has to change.
Now there is a good looking class of safeties coming in. Between Eric Reid, Tony Jefferson and Robert Lester, the Titans could pick up a pretty great strong safety in the draft if they're in a position to. However, you never know if that'll be the case, so there's always free agency.
Kenny Phillips is one of the better safeties hitting the market this season. In 2011, he had 82 tackles, 11 defended passes, four interceptions and a forced fumble.
He's also young at 25 years old, so he could mesh well with the rest of the very young Titans defensive backs. Tennessee needs safety help one way or another, and it won't find a better option in free agency than Phillips.
Mike Jenkins, CB, Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys already put Mike Jenkins out as a trade-able player to see what interest was in the offseason, so I seriously doubt he'll be coming back to the team any time soon, especially since he's an underrated corner who'd do well in free agency.
While Ryan Mouton and Coty Sensabaugh have stepped up to have a bigger impact, the Titans still need another true starting corner to rotate with Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner. They may spend a high pick on one of the talented corners in this year's class, or they could grab one in free agency.
Mike Jenkins would fit well with the Titans, who need another starting quality outside player for nickel packages. Jenkins isn't a perennial Pro Bowler, but he's good for about 10 defended passes a year.
If he were with the Titans, he wouldn't be on opposing teams' No. 1 receivers very often, and that number could increase. The Titans have been wrecked by No. 2 and No. 3 guys this season, so getting rid of those options should be a priority.
Derek Cox, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars
My gut tells me that Derek Cox will end up staying in Jacksonville, but my gut isn't a reliable source, so he could end up on the market. If he does, the Titans should grab him, because he could end up being a steal.
Cox is a great player, but he just happens to be on the Jaguars, so it's hard to see.
In his only full season as a starter, Cox had 72 total tackles, 11 defended passes and four interceptions. Pretty good if you ask me.
However, since that time, he's been limited by injuries and unable to stay on the field. Since the Jaguars will probably use a very high pick on a corner this year, they probably won't be too relentless about keeping Cox around.
Cox is the right size (6'1") for what the Titans are looking for out of the cornerback position, and he'll be a cheap signing if they can get him. His talent is undeniable; the only question is if he's worth the injury risk.
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