How Each Free Agent Fills a Huge Need for the Titans
Free agency has been very kind to the Tennessee Titans.
Typically a quiet team that makes nothing more than occasional situational signings, the Titans have cleaned up this offseason, making a plethora of moves to satisfy 90-year-old Bud Adams' craving for a title.
The Titans are clearly in "win-now" mode after beefing up with free agents to fill in weak spots all over the team. Many of the moves have gone under the radar, but they will have dramatic impacts across the board.
Tennessee may have spent almost all of its $18 million in cap space, but each free agent was worth it. The Titans didn't go for the high-profile names, instead targeting guys who suited their needs and will make them drastically better.
Chris Johnson had far too many carries last year where he had no breathing room whatsoever and was taken down in the backfield. The result was six games where he averaged less than 2.5 yards per carry.
The Titans went down huge early in far too many games last year, causing them to abandon the running game before it ever had a chance to get going. This had a domino effect on the entire team, putting massive pressure on second-year quarterback Jake Locker, which resulted in many three-and-outs subsequently putting more pressure on the defense.
Complicated, but true.
Many assumed the Titans would simply reach for a guard with the 10th pick in the draft and select either Jonathan Cooper from North Carolina or Chance Warmack from Alabama. They sill may take one of the two, but the Andy Levitre signing alleviates most, if not all of the internal offensive line issues that plagued the team all season.
Levitre was the best guard on the market, and although he received a ton of money, it will be worth it. What was arguably the team's biggest weakness is now a huge strength due to the acquisition of such an incredible lineman.
The Levitre signing was not the flashiest move, but it will pay dividends when Locker and Johnson have a much easier time staying upright next season.
Jeff Fisher brought his football crush, Jared Cook, to St. Louis this offseason, prying him from the Titans after an unfulfilled career that left Tennessee fans clamoring for more.
Cook contributed next to nothing in the running game, lining up at wide receiver far more often than a traditional tight end. For such an athletic player, he failed to live up to expectations in the passing game, with only eight touchdowns in four seasons.
While the Rams gave Cook an absurd $35 million, the Titans paid Delanie Walker exactly half of that amount for a more well-rounded player.
“Last year, we kind of looked for one of those types of tight ends that we could move, play more of an ‘H’ back role,” Titans GM Ruston Webster said. “He can play several different spots for us, play the wing, play the fullback, split out and play in the slot, play outside the numbers. He’s done all of that and gives us a lot of versatility in both run and pass.”
Walker is a punishing force in the run game who will open up more holes for Chris Johnson.
As for the passing game, he is an incredible athlete but had his fair share of drops last season. If Walker can work on that this offseason, it will just be yet another thing that he can bring to the table for this young team.
The Titans have not had a power back to complement Chris Johnson's blazing speed since LenDale White during the Smash and Dash days of 2008, when Tennessee had the top record in the NFL that season at 13-3.
Johnson has missed one game over the course of his career, and at this point, it is better for the team if he has a reliable complement. Jamie Harper was second among running backs with 19 carries last season.
Enter Shonn Greene.
He has put up back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons over the past two years with the Jets, scoring 14 touchdowns. And he has been prolific in short-yardage situations, which is exactly where Chris Johnson struggles.
It does the Titans no good as a team to constantly be in 2nd-and-long situations. It puts far too much pressure on Locker to bail the team out and is not good for his progression.
Johnson may not approach his 2,000-yard goal again, and he may not he enjoy having Greene around, but it will unquestionably make Tennessee better. Greene excels in all the areas Johnson does not, including pass blocking and goal-line situations.
Sammie Lee Hill
Karl Klug (6'3", 275 lbs) and Mike Martin (6'1", 306 lbs) are simply not big or imposing enough to stuff the run. They are both adept at getting to the quarterback, but the Titans needed plenty of help to help improve their 24th-ranked run defense.
Sammie Lee Hill has spent the past two seasons backing up Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. He is a massive being in the trenches at 6'4", 330 pounds.
He may rarely record any sacks, but he will be able to collapse the pocket from the inside, further helping outside pass-rushers Derrick Morgan, Kamerion Wimbley, Akeem Ayers and Zach Brown. Quarterbacks will not be able to step up in the pocket and avoid them like they did last season, so the outside rushers will not whiff coming in from the outside.
Hill was an unheralded signing, but he is a huge body that will provide depth. Tennessee sees him as a three-down lineman who will have a big impact on this defense.
Bernard Pollard and Gregg Williams?
Match made in heaven.
Titans fans will not have to endure another season of running backs plowing through Jordan Babineaux as he unsuccessfully creeps up to try to impact the run game. Nor will they have to watch tight ends come across the middle of the field with no fear whatsoever.
Pollard's hits are well-chronicled. He brings leadership from a Super Bowl-winning team and a bulldog-like mentality to the youngest defense in the NFL.
He will step in next to Michael Griffin and form a prolific safety duo.
Tennessee only brought Pollard in on a one-year deal, but his impact will be immeasurable.
Strong safety was a big weak point last season, as Babineaux played so poorly he was even pulled from the game on multiple occasions. Having a veteran presence like Pollard will help out both the young corners and the young linebackers because they will have the comfort of knowing a devastating hitter is lurking behind them for anyone who slips past their coverage.