Grading the Tennessee Titans Offseason Moves so Far
One day into the 2013 free-agent season, the Titans have already been very active. They've re-signed two players, cut one and picked up three big free agents from other teams.
Obviously, the majority of free agency is still around the bend, but the Titans are already in full swing, proving that their vow to be more active in free agency was more than just sound and fury.
Here is an analysis, review and grade for every move they've made so far.
1. Signing Bills Safety George Wilson
The Titans have been all over free agents who get cut for cap-space reasons in the last couple of seasons. That's how they landed Kamerion Wimbley, how they would have landed Peyton Manning if he had gone to Tennessee, how they offered Chris Canty this year, and now, how they landed George Wilson.
Wilson isn't the best safety on the market, and he's a huge concern as far as age goes. That said, the Titans are getting a clear upgrade at strong safety for only slightly more than they were already paying Jordan Babineaux.
As far as bang for your buck goes, I love this signing, and an upgrade is an upgrade.
2. Not Franchising Jared Cook
For quite a while, the Titans were expected to use their franchise tag to keep Jared Cook in Tennessee, but after Cook sought to be designated a wide receiver, that fell through.
Had he won on his claim to be classified as a wide receiver, he would have cost the Titans over $10 million, which is way more than he's worth.
Of course, not franchising him gave the Titans practically no chance to re-sign a great player, but if the parties can't agree on how much Cook is worth, then a deal won't get done, and I think the Titans were right not to bring him back, given the circumstances.
3. Re-Signing Rob Bironas
Now Bironas is a great kicker, but he's coming off, perhaps, his worst season so far, so I think he may be getting the better end of the deal. Of course, for years before 2012, he's been one of the best kickers in the NFL, so one could argue that he has a payday due.
In the end, it's a good signing. The Titans are bringing back a great player who's been with the franchise for a long time. He's lost a few key games for the team, but he's won way more.
4. Using Second-Round Tender on Fernando Velasco
At the last possible minute, the Titans tendered Fernando Velasco with a second-round pick. This means he'll be guaranteed a salary of around $2 million, and if another team offers him more, the Titans can choose to match the offer or let him go in exchange for a second-round pick.
With an offensive line that suffered several injuries in 2012, Velasco was one of the few bright spots, emerging from within the depth chart to turn into a very serviceable starting center. Velasco gave up no sacks in his one year as a starter.
With as bad as the offensive line was in 2012, the Titans did well to hold onto what they have. With a second-round tender in place, there's almost no chance Velasco ends up elsewhere. He won't be overpaid either.
5. Signing Andy Levitre
On the one hand, this solves the Titans' biggest need with an elite player and frees them up to not waste a top-10 selection on a guard, so it's a solid signing.
On the downside, they're overpaying him. Levitre is an elite pass-blocker, but his run-blocking ability is nothing to write home about. He can run block, and with Velasco staying in the center, they'll be able to double team effectively, but he isn't a mauler.
In the end, I think the good outweighs the bad, but the Titans could have signed a slightly lesser talent for way less money.
6. Signing Delanie Walker
Well, the only really good thing I can say about this signing is that the Titans paid Delanie Walker (per Adam Schefter of ESPN) much less than Jared Cook was demanding. Walker is an excellent blocker, but is a mediocre pass-catcher at best.
There's also the possibility that Walker benefited from being surrounded by talent. The 49ers were one of the best teams in the NFL in both 2012 and 2011, and I doubt that much of their success can be attributed to Walker.
Then again, the opposite could be true—Walker could be better than he appears, but doesn't get as much playing time as he would without Vernon Davis in front of him.
Still, I think the former is much more likely than the latter.
7. Releasing Jordan Babineaux
I hate to speak poorly of Jordan Babineaux, because he seems to be a team player, but he was one of the worst starting safeties in the NFL in 2012, and the Titans did well in deciding to release him (per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean).
It didn't seem to be for any lack of effort: Babineaux was second in tackle totals on the team in 2012 and 2011. However, his instincts were off, and he wasn't of much value in run support either year.
It looked to me like, more than anything else, age simply caught up with him.
It's unfortunate to see a guy like Babineaux released, but it was the right move for the team, especially with a strong safety group in the draft and George Wilson signed.