Best and Worst Moves the Tennessee Titans Made in Free Agency
General manager Ruston Webster hasn't signed anyone new to the roster in over 10 days, but the effects of those signings have hinted at what route the Tennessee Titans may go during the NFL draft in May.
While this year's free agency has lacked the cachet of last offseason's $100 million-plus splurge, the organization's signings have helped shape the team in the mold of a new coaching regime and seem to focus on frugality.
All told, the Titans have re-signed five of their players who declared for free agency, signed five new players and cut four players—including Rob Bironas and David Stewart.
Over the next few slides, I'll point out the best and worst moves the Titans have made to date.
Do you want the good news first or the bad news? I've been one to take the bad first to help taper off my level of joy from the good news preemptively.
Though he has a very famous name, former Baltimore Ravens tackle Michael Oher has not been the stalwart offensive lineman he's portrayed to be in his biographical movie and doesn't even protect the "blind side."
In truth, Oher has been far from a quality talent for some time now. In 2013, Oher drew a minus-12.6 grade from Pro Football Focus (subscription required), which would have been bad enough if he had not earned a minus-11.5, minus-6.7 and minus-7.7 in the three previous seasons.
With four consecutive mediocre seasons now on his resume, the Titans still paid him handsomely for his services over the next four years. There is an out, however, for the Titans that I'll let ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky explain:
Oher received a $4 million signing bonus with a guaranteed 2014 base salary of $2 million. Then $3.35 million of his 2015 base salary for 2015 is guaranteed only for injury.
So it's $6 million guaranteed now. With potential for $3.35 million more in 2015. If Oher is healthy, the Titans can get out of the deal after one season at a cost of $6 million with no further expense.
It's possible Oher could improve with a change of scenery, but at this point, it seems as though getting consistent quality play from him throughout the year would be an anomaly.
The Titans could have had their choice of offensive tackles in the deep draft, but chose to go the free-agent route after cutting long-time tackle Stewart, who has not finished with a negative PFF grade in the last seven years.
Verdict: Bad move
When free agency officially opened up, the Titans' first priority was signing self-described "offensive weapon" Dexter McCluster.
Anyone who watched the San Diego Chargers last season saw how big of a problem Danny Woodhead was for opposing defenses throughout the year. His dual-threat ability gave defenses fits while producing quality gains on a consistent basis.
Woodhead outweighs McCluster by 30 pounds, but McCluster makes up for it with his rare agility. The Tennessean's John Glennon does a great job of breaking down Woodhead's usage and how McCluster may fit a similar role here.
The expected departure of Chris Johnson leaves an opening for a receiving threat out of the backfield that McCluster should be able to fill in a much better way than Johnson has ever been utilized at the position.
While McCluster alone isn't a game-breaking player, he provides the Titans offense a way to get easy yards and helps to open up the field for other receiving options downfield.
Verdict: Good move
The addition of Charlie Whitehurst is one that makes little to no sense to me. The Titans are paying up to $8 million over two years for a quarterback who has made four starts in an eight-year career.
During those starts, he has thrown three touchdowns, four interceptions and been sacked 13 times. The signing of Whitehurst and release of Ryan Fitzpatrick is exacerbated by Jake Locker's penchant for getting injured for large chunks of time.
The possibility of relying on Whitehurst for several weeks is a real issue that could arise in 2014. While Fitzpatrick proved to be incapable of winning last season, he is still a known commodity. Whitehurst offers a very limited sample size that isn't pretty.
The argument that Whitehurst already knows Ken Whisenhunt's offense doesn't jibe with me, because backup quarterbacks have been making a living off learning new offenses on very few snaps throughout their collective careers.
In the end, this is a move orchestrated by Whisenhunt, and the repercussions of the latter transactions will come to light in the future. But today, the move appears to be a risk due to the lack of experience and high probability of being forced into action.
Verdict: Bad move
The Titans signed Wesley Woodyard to play inside linebacker after coming up empty on several of the higher-rated players at the position who were available as free agents.
While Woodyard doesn't excel in any one area, he offers the team a linebacker versatile enough to play at any of the linebacker positions. At $15.75 million over four years, according to Spotrac.com, Woodyard is being paid like someone who is expected to start.
With defensive coordinator Ray Horton planning to employ a hybrid defense, Woodyard's experience in both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses will prove to be very valuable when paired with his positional versatility.
My only issue with the signing is his similarity to Zach Brown and Zaviar Gooden. Looking at the roster, the Titans appear to be content with starting two weakside linebackers at inside linebacker.
Tennessee is lacking a thumper in the middle who is capable of stepping up into running lanes and stuffing the running game. Perhaps, Horton plans to play his linebackers on a rotation, but with the team lacking a true nose tackle on the roster, there is some concern for the defense being gashed up the middle.
The significance of the Titans missing out on Karlos Dansby, D'Qwell Jackson and Brandon Spikes cannot be underestimated. I expect the team to continue adding talent at inside linebacker.
Verdict: Bad move
At the start of free agency, the Titans were faced with the possibility that perhaps the best unit on its defense would lose two starters in Alterraun Verner and Bernard Pollard.
Horton has emphasized he values having two safeties who play closer to the line of scrimmage in order to be able to blitz from either side.
Pollard brings leadership and physicality back to a still improving Titans defense that could have taken a step back had it lost him in addition to Verner.
Pollard is everything Horton values in his players. He is an attacking player, capable of playing multiple positions, tackles well and is a vocal leader. His return to team is invaluable for more that just his contributions on the stat sheet.
Verdict: Good move
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