Tennessee Titans Free-Agent Spotlight: Defensive Linemen

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Tennessee Titans Free-Agent Spotlight: Defensive Linemen
Michael Perez/Associated Press

As we head toward the NFL's free-agency period—officially beginning on March 11—I've decided to take a longer look at some of the current free agents the Tennessee Titans may target this offseason.

New team president and CEO Tommy Smith made it clear during a radio interview on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville that the Titans would "be active" this offseason. ESPN's Paul Kuharsky was there to supply the quotes:

We were active last year, and where Ruston [Webster] and Ken [Whisenhunt] see the need and find the talent, we're going to go after it. So within our confines within the salary cap and so forth, we're going to be active.

With Smith's proclamation, all the intrigue and speculation of who Smith might want to empty his coffers for ensues. 

In general, these spotlights will focus on long-term solutions rather than stopgaps. For example, players who are 30-plus years old will not be included. With that said, today's spotlight will shine on defensive linemen Linval Joseph (pictured above), Arthur Jones and Lamarr Houston.

 

Linval Joseph

At 6'4" and 328 pounds, Joseph has the size to fit in both the 4-3, which he's accustomed to, and a 3-4 defensive front. He's been a key cog in the New York Giants' defensive front over the last three seasons and has the experience of playing in—and winning—the Super Bowl.

Linval Joseph 2011-2013 Stats
Season PFF Rating/Rank Tackles Assists Sacks
2013 +9.9 (21) 33 26 3.0
2012 +6.3 (21) 33 26 4.0
2011 +6.6 (23) 34 15 2.0

NFL.com & Pro Football Focus

While none of his numbers particularly jump out, Joseph is a promising and scheme-versatile talent at 25 years of age. It's rare to find a player with as much experience and talent Joseph has at his age. Obviously, teams all over the league will be prepared to offer him a contract when free agency rolls around, but perhaps he can be convinced to join the Titans.

Jurrell Casey had a truly dominant year in 2013 and Derrick Morgan has continued to show promise, despite taking a bit of step back. The addition of Joseph and a strong pass-rusher via the draft could give the Titans a dominant front every team desires.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

 

Arthur Jones

The career-long Baltimore Raven had a bit of a breakout campaign after the team's Super Bowl-winning season. Per Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, Jones is expected to receive a lot of interest when free agency begins.

As a 28-year-old, 6'3", 305-pound lineman, Jones possess the size and the intangibles to play as a 3-4 end and a tackle in the 4-3. While Joseph offers more youth, Jones has the same championship pedigree and has been the player of late.

Arthur Jones' 2011-2013 Stats
Season PFF Rating/Rank Tackles Assists Sacks
2013 +15.7 (12) 28 25 4.0
2012 +2.4 (18) 27 20 4.5
2011 -1.8 (NR) 14 6 0.0

NFL.com and Pro Football Focus

Despite his somewhat paltry rating in 2012, Pro Football Focus' Michael Renner had an explanation for things: "From Week 12 through the Super Bowl that season, he amassed a grade of +10.6 while playing in 51% of the snaps."

Having played in 55 percent of snaps through 2013, Jones has excelled in an increased role. The Ravens have run a form of the hybrid defense for years and Jones' experience would be a welcome addition to a transitioning team in need of leaders.

Elsa/Getty Images

 

Lamarr Houston

Houston has rare size for a 4-3 defensive end at 6'3", 300 pounds, displaying the ability to rush the passer as the lone standout on the Oakland Raiders' defensive line. Houston doesn't have the experience of being in a winning situation or playing in a 3-4, but he has the benefit of performing well despite his surroundings and his youth (26).

To be playing end at his size in a 4-3 front is a clear display of his rare athleticism. which can be used to pressure opposing quarterbacks in any defensive formation. Houston was the sixth-best 4-3 end in run-stop percentage, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

Lamarr Houston's 2011-2013 Stats
Season PFF Rating/Rank Tackles Assists Sacks
2013 +11.4 (11) 56 13 6.0
2012 +16.5 (9) 49 20 4.0
2011 +8.3 (19) 36 15 1.0

NFL.com and Pro Football Focus

Obviously, Houston does not possess the pass-rushing acumen you would like to see in a 4-3 end, having failed to ever reach more than six sacks in his five-year career. However, as a 3-4 end, Houston could be a rare find.

He can play anywhere on the defensive line and is an elite run-stopper capable of pressuring the quarterback. If there's pressure coming from every side of the pocket, the sack numbers are bound to go up. 

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