Ranking the Tennessee Titans' Best Remaining Free-Agency Options
The first week of free agency came and went without the bang of a signing many had come to expect leading up to the date. Still, the team has acquired five players to various levels of praise and chagrin.
Dexter McCluster, Al Woods, Charlie Whitehurst, Wesley Woodyard and Michael Oher may not be household names, but they will serve a purpose under the new regime's tutelage.
The signing of McCluster should help to resolve the team's kick/punt woes on special teams, as well as provide a receiving threat out of the backfield after the expected release or trading of Chris Johnson.
Woods gives the team some much needed size and 3-4 experience on the defensive line. He's capable of playing at nose tackle or end, giving the team several options come gamedays.
Woodyard's signing is one that brings in experience, leadership and fills a need at inside linebacker. The Whitehurst and Oher signings involve quite a bit more risk than the former, but both talents will have their opportunities to show their worth.
The Titans entered free agency in need of help at inside linebacker, running back, right tackle, defensive lineman, edge rusher and receiver depth. The four signings to date didn't quite knock a lot of the team's needs off the list but should provide insurance.
The market has gone pretty bare after several of the Titans' top targets have been poached by other franchises. There are still some players of value that can come in and help the Titans better adjust to their new scheme, and some of them have already been in for a visit.
5. Ryan Pickett, NT
Of course, if the New England Patriots acquiesce to Vince Wilfork's request to be released, the Titans should make him a priority. However, with the players that are currently free agents, Ryan Pickett would be a solid short-term solution to the team's need for a nose tackle.
Sammie Lee Hill possesses the size to play nose in a 3-4 defense, but he doesn't appear to have the strength and only has experience playing in a 4-3 front throughout his entire football career.
While the draft does offer its fair share of nose tackle prospects, it's in the Titans' best interest to also have a veteran whom has played nose at the NFL on the roster for the transition to Ray Horton's hybrid defense.
4. Akeem Jordan, ILB
Chiefs free agent linebacker Akeem Jordan is scheduled to visit the Tennessee Titans on Monday, according to a source— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) March 12, 2014
While Jordan would likely be a depth or rotational signing, to beat a dead horse, he offers experience and versatility to a linebacker corps that is a bit shaky.
I'll jump into some quick analysis on a later slide, but on the inside the expected options for the role are Wesley Woodyard, Zach Brown, Moise Fokou and Colin McCarthy. Brown and McCarthy have no 3-4 experience, and Fokou already lacked size for a 4-3 backer.
The Titans have shown interest in several inside linebackers, showing a lack of support for the incumbent talent. There is a clear desire for turnover at linebacker, and I don't think the Titans are done adding players to the positional group.
3. Shaun Phillips, OLB
The Titans are looking for a boost at outside linebacker for all the same reasons they're looking for help at inside. The Titans have been lacking a dominant pass-rusher as well, and with the switch to a 3-4 scheme the need becomes that of the linebacker variety.
On the roster as clear options for 3-4 outside linebackers are Kamerion Wimbley, who has struggled since joining the team as a defensive end, and Akeem Ayers, whose play tailed off as the season wore on.
Derrick Morgan also will be faced with the task of transitioning between linebacker and end this season. I am not of the belief that he will be a great fit for Horton's defense, but the coaching staff has heaped praise on him after studying film.
The fit is perfect for what the coaching regime is trying to do defensively as a hybrid front.
2. Pat Sims, DT/DE
Plain and simple, The Titans have got to get bigger in the front seven. Luckily, that process began last offseason and the team does have a few players that should be able to transition to Horton's defense.
At 6'2", 310 pounds, Pat Sims should be able to play any role on the line in a 3-4 front. Sims performed well with the Oakland Raiders last season, showing a knack for getting after running backs and being tough to move off the line of scrimmage.
He finished the year with a career-high 54 tackles to go along with two sacks. Lamarr Houston may have been the star of the Raiders' defensive front, but Sims is a valuable talent that could provide good pressure from the outside in 3-4 alignments.
1. Alex Carrington, DE/DT
With his production (53 tackles, four sacks) at his size (6'5", 305 lbs) and age (26), Alex Carrington should have received much more attention by now. Unfortunately for him, he suffered a season-ending quadriceps tear in Week 3 and the market has only now begun to clamor for his attention.
Carrington's length and ability to collapse the pocket would be a boon for the Titans' defensive aspirations. He has great size to play end in Horton's 3-4 and would still be able to illustrate his strengths as pocket-pusher in 4-3 fronts.
If the Titans are looking to have a truly hybrid front, Carrington is the type of player general manager Ruston Webster needs to add to the roster when possible. With the injury, there's a pretty good shot he could be had on the cheap.
The Titans just need to throw their hats into the ring.
*All stats gathered from NFL.com.