Last week, I went over the Tennessee Titans' salary cap information, focusing on upcoming free agents, possible roster cuts and how the team's salary cap space should be spent. In this article, I will break down how the Titans' salary cap spending is spread over the roster position-by-position.
With Ken Whisenhunt being brought on as the team's new head coach, some inherent changes to the team's final roster composition are inevitable. I will discuss the latter changes as they arrive. One of the reasons Whisenhunt chose the Titans over his widely expected next coaching destination in Detroit is due to each team's roster composition.
Having Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush and Ndamukong Suh on the roster may seem like a great corp of talent to have as a new head coach, but they take up $55,790,500 of cap space or more than 43 percent.
Without making some roster cuts, the Titans will not be able to make many changes to the current roster. The team have a large portion of the roster becoming free agents and very little space to re-sign them.
Players Under Contract: 45
Current 2014 Salary-Cap Spending: $123,231,606
Projected 2014 Salary Cap: $126,600,000
Projected Salary-Cap Space: $3,068,394
Expiring Contracts: 16
On 2014 Roster: Jake Locker ($4,004,637), Ryan Fitzpatrick ($4,125,000) and Tyler Wilson ($495,000).
2014 Cap Spending: $8,624,637
Free Agents: Rusty Smith
The Titans don't have much invested into the position, as the combined total of the team's quarterbacks ranks 16th among active quarterbacks. General manager Ruston Webster has a decision to make with Locker's contract.
There is a contract option for the 2015 season worth $13 million, but Webster must decide to exercise it in May of this year. It's highly unlikely that the Titans will pick up that option with so many questions remaining about the young talent.
The Titans must decide if they want to bring in another young talent to develop via the draft and cut Fitzpatrick or give Locker a full vote of confidence and stick with the current players on hand.
On 2014 Roster: Chris Johnson ($10 million), Shonn Greene ($3,233,333), Quinn Johnson ($730,000) and Colin Mooney ($495,000).
2014 Cap Spending: $14,458,333
Free Agents: Jackie Battle, Leon Washington and Herb Donaldson (RFA).
With Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene both under contract, the Titans have more invested into the running back position than any team but the Minnesota Vikings. Obviously, Adrian Peterson has provided more for his team than Johnson over the past few years.
The Titans stand to save $6 million in 2014 if they cut Johnson, but have to decide if it is the right move to make. Coach Whisenhunt hasn't spoken much about any individuals on the roster, but after deciding on what to do at quarterback, the decision on Johnson is the next most important.
The San Diego Chargers ran the ball 447 times to 544 passes last season, exhibiting a clear intent to keep things as even as possible in his play-calling. Whether Johnson fits into the team's future is something we'll have to wait on.
Leon Washington would be a good player to bring back after immediately solving the team's return-duty issues that had plagued them for much of the season. The team is unlikely to retain two fullbacks once the 2014 season begins.
On 2014 Roster: Craig Stevens ($4.4 million), Delanie Walker ($4 million) and Taylor Thompson ($619,500).
2014 Cap Spending: $9,019,500
Free Agents: None
Delanie Walker enjoyed a breakout campaign during his first season in Tennessee, racking career highs in receptions, yardage and touchdowns. Walker finished the season with 60 catches for 571 yards and six touchdowns.
However, the team failed to utilize backup tight end Craig Stevens, who had previously averaged more than 14 catches for an average of 187.67 yards per season. He finished 2013 with two catches for five yards. Whisenhunt seemed to employ his second tight end a bit more often during his stint with the Chargers.
Ladarius Green made 17 grabs for 376 yards and three scores. Stevens' best season isn't too far off from Green's 2013 season, but it's up to Whisenhunt's preferences for the position. The Titans could cut Stevens and save $2.4 million in cap room, and bring in greater receiving threat to backup Walker.
On 2014 Roster: Nate Washington ($4.8 million), Kendall Wright ($2,241,396), Justin Hunter ($1,232,761) and Michael Preston ($570,000).
2014 Cap Spending: $8,844,157
Free Agents: Kenny Britt, Damian Williams, Kevin Walter and Marc Mariani.
One of the perks of having drafted so heavily, with high draft picks, at one position is the cheap labor. Other than Washington, the Titans' receiving corps is very cap friendly. The Titans have a budding young duo in Wright and Hunter, with Washington there to provide leadership.
However, $4.8 million is quite a bit of cash for a talent that is on the wrong side of 30. Washington can be released from his contract without any dead money being left on the books. While $4.8 million would be nice to have to spend elsewhere, the Titans do not have much depth behind him.
Washington is still a quality receiver and the team would be wise to keep him around as a mentor, especially if they have no intentions of bringing in any other veteran help. Damian Williams would be a solid receiver to re-sign. He's capable of stepping up when called upon for injury and is adept at all three receiving positions.
On 2014 Roster: Andy Levitre ($8.6 million), Michael Roos ($6,625,000), David Stewart ($6.4 million), Chance Warmack ($2,765,147), Byron Stingily ($675,625) and Brian Schwenke ($611,065).
2014 Cap Spending: $25,676,837
Free Agents: Michael Otto, Robert Turner, Chris Spencer and Kevin Matthews.
There's an awful lot of money invested into Tennessee's offensive line after last off-season's emphasis on improving the team's running game. David Stewart's level of play has declined rapidly over the last two seasons and the team could save his entire contract by moving on.
The Titans have a healthy portion of the salary cap invested in this unit, and the possibility of shaving more than $6 million off the cap will be tempting. There's a fair chance that the team can find a cheaper option to play right tackle in free agency or the middle rounds of the draft.
Another point of concern will be adding a bit of depth to the unit, mainly a young talent capable of playing both center and guard.
On 2014 Roster: Kamerion Wimbley ($7.8 million), Sammie Lee Hill ($4,066,666), Derrick Morgan ($3,191,668), Jurrell Casey ($824,359), Mike Martin ($731,890), Karl Klug ($693,613) and Lavar Edwards ($544,625).
2014 Cap Spending: $17,852,821
Free Agents: Ropati Pitoitua and Antonio Johnson.
A couple things coach Whisenhunt was clear about in his introductory interview are that he intends to call the plays on offense and that he would like to employ a hybrid front defense, per ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky.
Part of running a hybrid defense is that it requires a defense to be able to play both 4-3 and 3-4 defense as its base. The two guys set to become free agents have experience playing on a 3-4 defense and would be valuable re-signings to help with the transition.
Wimbley also has experience in a 3-4 as an outside linebacker, but at $7.8 million it will be difficult to justify keeping him around. Cutting Wimbley would leave the team strapped with $5.4 million in dead money, so there is a tough decision coming along the defensive line.
On 2014 Roster: Akeem Ayers ($1,567,527), Moise Fokou ($1.55 million), Patrick Bailey ($1.3 million), Zach Brown ($1,052,263), Colin McCarthy ($758,850) and Zaviar Gooden ($626,504).
2014 Cap Spending: $6,855,144
Free Agents: None
There is a lot of youth in the Titans' linebacker corps but they left a lot to be desired for the majority of 2013, failing to make many splash plays as the season progressed. Perhaps a new defensive scheme will help improve the unit's play, but talent will likely need to be added.
Akeem Ayers could fit in to his more natural role of 3-4 outside linebacker in the new defense, but the play in the middle is lacking and the team would be wise to add a pass-rusher to join the group. Fokou has played in a 3-4 defense before, but he didn't excel in the role.
If the Titans are still looking to create cap space, Fokou can be cut for a saving of $1.4 million.
On 2014 Roster: Jason McCourty ($8.3 million), Michael Griffin ($8 million), George Wilson ($2.3 million), Blidi Wreh-Wilson ($683,441), Coty Sensabaugh ($678,023), Tommie Campbell ($656,474), Daimion Stafford ($506,474) and Khalid Wooten ($495,000).
2014 Cap Spending: $21,619,412
Free Agents: Bernard Pollard and Alterraun Verner.
With Pollard and Verner both set to hit the free agent market, the Titans have some major holes to fill in its defensive backfield. Verner's price tag will most likely become too great for the Titans to match it. While he has been a quality second corner, the Titans cannot afford to overpay for Verner.
Pollard can be had at a more reasonable rate and he fills more than just a positional need, but a leadership role as well. Ken Whisenhunt is looking to employ a hard-nosed football team and Pollard exemplifies that trait.
Wilson could be cut for $2 million in savings and Campbell is a likely cap casualty after failing to capitalize on two opportunities to become one of the team's starting corners.
On 2014 Roster: Rob Bironas ($3.75 million), Brett Kern ($1,469,375) and Beau Brinkley ($576,667).
2014 Cap Spending: $5,796,042
Free Agents: None
Rob Bironas will be the league's fourth-highest paid kicker next season. Whether he deserves that is up to management, but he could be cut for $3 million savings. Bironas made 86.2 percent of his field goal attempts this season and will likely be retained for another season.
Brett Kern has been a quality punter for the team since his arrival and Brinkley appears safe as the team's long snapper. There isn't typically any turnover at these three positions with a change of head coach.