Setting Odds for Tennessee Titans Signing Their Top 6 Free Agent Targets
The Titans don't have much walking around money right now but with a few strategic cuts, they could find themselves with plenty of cash to spend on a few free agents. They'll have a lot of holes to fill, so they'll need help from free agency and the draft to fill them.
Other than needs they currently have at defensive end and middle linebacker, they're losing starters at strong safety and corner, and they could end up cutting starting tackles and running backs.
That's not even taking into account possible needs brought about by scheme changes.
The Titans are going to have to spend wisely in free agency, but that doesn't mean they can't pursue some of their top targets. Here are six top players they'll be looking at and the odds that they'll land them.
1. Alterraun Verner, CB
While he may not be the top free agent on the market, Alterraun Verner has been with the Titans for his entire career, and they would probably like to bring him back.
Verner broke out in 2013, nabbing four interceptions in the first four games. He led the league in interceptions for most of the season and finished the year with five interceptions, a league-leading 23 passes defended and 57 total tackles.
What Verner lacks in size and speed he makes up for in his incredible ability to read quarterbacks and jump routes. He's also one of the surer tacklers in the Titans secondary.
Unfortunately, those big numbers mean Verner could get a big paycheck somewhere else. For comparison, Keenan Lewis led the league in defended passes in 2012, but he was a liability in man coverage.
The Saints picked him up for five years and $26 million dollars. Verner can probably demand more because he created more turnovers than Lewis did, but the ballpark figure should be similar.
Odds: 5 to 1
Verner has spent his entire career in Tennessee, and he may want to return. A deal like the one Lewis received with the Saints is something the Titans could afford.
2. Karlos Dansby, ILB
Another player that has some history with the Titans (or at least their new coaching staff) is Karlos Dansby. Dansby played under Ken Whisenhunt and Ray Horton in his first stint with the Cardinals.
He also plays inside linebacker, a position on the Titans that could use upgrading. However, according to Adam Green of arizonasports.com, Dansby stated in an interview on Sirius XM's NFL Radio that he expects to stay in Arizona.
That could be just talk, so we'll see how things go. In 2013, Dansby was a monster, racking up 122 tackles, 6.5 sacks, four interceptions and 19 defended passes.
He's also 32 years old and doesn't have much left on his career, but even so, he signed a contract worth $2.25 million for the Cardinals. If the Titans offered him enough of a raise, he might come over.
Odds: 15 to 1
Dansby has history with Whisenhunt and Horton but at his age and with his assertion that he plans to stay in Arizona, it isn't that likely.
3. Ben Tate, RB
Ben Tate, of the Houston Texans, is likely to head somewhere else. The only time he'll be a starter in Houston is when Arian Foster is injured, so he'll probably try to land with a team that wants him as their primary ball carrier.
Enter the Titans. With the Titans potentially cutting Chris Johnson, they might decide to upgrade the position in free agency. Ben Tate would likely be the best option in this year's group of running backs.
With Shonn Greene playing well, they may not elect to spend big on another back, but if they do, Tate would be the way to go.
Tate played in 14 games in 2013, and he rushed for 771 yards and four touchdowns. Not super impressive, but the Texans offense was awful overall this year, and he's been good before that.
He has a bit of an injury history though, which means he won't be that costly. He probably wouldn't cost much more, if any more, than Greene, who signed a three-year $10 million deal in 2013 with the Titans.
Odds: 30 to 1
Tate is great, but I don't see the Titans spending big on a running back when they're likely cutting one to save money.
4. Brian Orakpo, OLB
The Titans are probably going to be seeing some changes on defense. Whisenhunt, Horton, and linebackers coach Lou Spanos are all 3-4 guys and so I'd expect the Titans to play the 3-4 a lot more often going forward.
That means when looking for pass-rushers, the Titans might want 3-4 guys over traditional 4-3 defensive ends. Of that group, Brian Orakpo is the best option.
Spanos also happened to be the linebackers coach for the Redskins while Orakpo was playing, so they have a history together.
Orakpo also has a history with injury, but he still played the majority of the 2013 season and did so pretty well. He had 10 sacks, an interception and four defended passes to go along with 60 total tackles.
No edge-rusher on the Titans has reached double digit sacks since Jason Babin in 2010, so Orakpo would definitely be a big help there.
He'd also be expensive. He'll be one of the top free agent pass-rushers this offseason, so the Titans won't be the only team trying to put a bid in, and they may not have the cash to nab him.
Odds: 50 to 1
Orakpo will be one of the most sought after free agents on the market, so the chances of the Titans winning that sweepstakes are slim.
5. Antonio Smith, DE
Of course, playing the 3-4, the Titans might need some help at the 3-4 end position as well.
Jurrell Casey and Mike Martin are both too short to play defensive end in a 3-4, and Derrick Morgan is hard to fit in the 3-4 as either an end or a linebacker. Karl Klug and sophomore player Lavar Edwards are great fits, but neither has been a full time starter before.
That leaves a bit of a hole in the 3-4 defense that the Titans might want to upgrade. The top available player for that position this season is probably the Texans' Antonio Smith.
Smith has been playing the best football of his career these last four years with the Texans and even though he's already 32, he shows no signs of slowing down.
Now of course, signing older players is always risky, but something like a two-year agreement would be something both parties might agree to. Smith would get some security, and the Titans would have little risk.
Odds: 30 to 1
Smith is near the end of his career, and he may want to play for a contender or someone who will overpay. The Titans are likely to do neither of those things, but they are one of only a few teams looking for 3-4 ends.
6. T.J. Ward, SS
Jairus Byrd is the top safety on the market, but he's a pure free safety, and the Titans have a hole at strong safety, so even if they expand their search, they're going to want someone who can play against the run.
T.J. Ward is that kind of player, and he also happens to be young and coming from a team that Ray Horton just finished coordinating. Following your coordinator is far from unheard of, so he may look at the Titans.
Ward was the top tackler in Cleveland with 112 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, six defended passes and two interceptions, one of which he ran back for a touchdown. He's also a hard-hitting safety who famously ended Rob Gronkowski's season in 2013.
The Titans brought in Patriot-injurer of legend Bernard Pollard in 2013, and it worked out very well for them despite Pollard's difficulties in pass coverage. Ward doesn't have those difficulties, and he would be an instant upgrade at the safety position.
Odds: 20 to 1
The Browns aren't going to want to let Ward go but with the Titans already losing their free agent strong safety, signing another free agent at the position is likely. Ward will be the top target, and Horton will be familiar with him as a player.