After a 6-10 2012 campaign, the Tennessee Titans had plenty of work to do this offseason, but for every move that Tennessee has made this year that can be viewed as improving the team, there's been another that has left fans and pundits scratching their heads.
The latest puzzler came on Thursday, when ESPN's Josina Anderson reported that the Titans had agreed to terms on a one-year deal with strong safety Bernard Pollard.
I just got off the phone with Bernard Pollard. Pollard told me, "I've agreed to sign a one-year deal with the Titans." #Titans— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) March 21, 2013
Now on its face, the signing of Pollard isn't so bad. After all, the eighth-year pro is a stout run defender who had nearly 100 tackles for the Baltimore Ravens last year.
The problem is that the Titans just signed virtually the same player a few weeks ago.
Granted, Wilson, at 32, is older than Pollard. However, not only do the two safeties possess similar skill sets, but Wilson graded out better than Pollard among safeties both overall and in coverage in 2012 according to Pro Football Focus.
Rather than addressing a need, the team filled a hole they didn't have. In fact, they filled a hole they just filled!
And that's how it's gone in free agency for the Titans. Take a step forward, and then two steps back.
The team opened free agency with a bang, signing guard Andy Levitre to a six-year, $46.8 million contract. Some might say that was overpaying for an interior lineman, but Levitre is young and was the best free agent available at the position—and the team badly needed to upgrade there.
However, the Titans then followed that up with the worst free-agent signing this side of Erik Walden's deal with the Indianapolis Colts.
The Titans signed running back Shonn Greene, who bumbled his way to just over 1,000 yards on the ground last year for the New York Jets, to a three-year deal that includes $4.5 million in guarantees.
Wait, it gets better.
According to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports, head coach Mike Munchak then compared Shonn Greene to Eddie George, stating that he has a "sizeable role" in mind for the four-year veteran.
“I know as a (former) line coach myself that we haven’t had a guy like that in a while,” Munchak said of Greene at the NFL owners meeting. “He reminds me of the Eddie George days -- a guy that can fall forward, a guy that’s physical, a guy that can understand his role.
“We’re not going to have him as a short-yardage back, a goal-line back and four-minute back and that’s all he does. We feel he can play all three downs. He may get a series where he gets going and we’re taking over the line of scrimmage and you want that runner in there and we leave him in there.”
This is the point in the article, when, after considering the idea of Shonn Greene "staying in there," Titans fans may just want to stop reading and go stick their heads in the oven.
The Greene signing also didn't go over so well with starter Chris Johnson according to Jim Wyatt of The Nashville Tennessean.
“I have never been a big fan of the two-back system, so I don’t know how we plan on using him,” Johnson said casually. “I’m not afraid of competition, but I was thinking we’d maybe get a draft pick for the other back. And you don’t give a guy that kind of money to be just a goal-line guy and in tough-yardage situations. So we’ll see what happens.”
And so it goes. The Titans replaced backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck with Ryan Fitzpatrick, which I suppose could be called a nominal upgrade if only because Fitzpatrick is substantially younger.
The Titans also watched tight end Jared Cook depart for the St. Louis Rams. While Delanie Walker is a solid blocker and versatile pro with some promise, he's also not nearly the offensive weapon that Cook is. And Walker didn't come cheaply at $17.5 million over four years.
How Would You Grade the Tennessee Titans' Free Agent Signings?
The team then handed linebacker Moises Fokou a two-year, $2.8 million contract, even though they don't really have anywhere to put him. Sure, you can look at that as a depth signing, but isn't that money that could have better been spent elsewhere?
To this point, the Tennessee Titans have spent quite a chunk of money.
In doing so, they've essentially filled two holes, strong safety and guard. I loved the George Wilson deal, and while the Levitre contract is fat, it's a deal I can live with, given how badly the Titans needed to bolster the interior of the offensive front.
Then they swapped out at two more spots. I think it's safe to say that you can call the backup quarterback switch a slight win, and the tight end flip a slight loss.
But what's with the rest of the signings? A second strong safety who isn't going to want to play as a backup? A depth linebacker panic move born of the injuries that decimated the position last year?
And why in the name of Eddie George (who should slap Mike Munchak for making that comparison, by the way) did the Titans pay Shonn Greene more money annually than the Atlanta Falcons ended up giving Steven Jackson?
There's no rhyme or reason to it.
It's like repainting the kitchen you just painted last year, while pretending that the huge hole in the living room wall is just supposed to be there.
It just doesn't make any sense.