CJ's contract negotiations will dictate how much the Titans can spend in Free Agency
With the lockout officially over and the league open for business, the NFL suddenly finds itself in the midst of an unprecedented frenzy of rapid-fire free agency transactions. Out of necessity, teams are moving quickly to bolster their rosters and, as a result, many of the most sought-after free agents are leaving the open market at a startling pace.
The Titans did well with the acquisition of Matt Hasselbeck and the expeditious signing of their draft picks. However, the team still has plenty of needs that it should address if it hopes to compete in 2011.
At this point, locking Chris Johnson up and getting him into training camp will be Tennessee's top priority, and will require a considerable portion of the franchise's salary cap room. To the extent that the Titans are able to add more free agents after addressing CJ's contract, there is still an abundance of talented free agents available. Here are five available free agents who would help the Titans become more competitive in 2011...
In spite of Kenny Britt's potential to become a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver, it became clear during this offseason that he lacks the maturity and wherewithal to be counted on by his team. Although such an acquisition could be considered a luxury, the Titans would be wise to invest in a contingency plan in the event that Britt is unable or unwilling to straighten himself out or remain healthy.
Malcolm Floyd is an experienced wideout who would make a lot of sense as precisely this type of insurance. Floyd is a big target with good hands whose production has steadily increased over the years. The addition of Floyd should send Britt the message that he is hardly irreplaceable, and thus hopefully prompt him to mature and behave like the professional he is expected to be.
In the best case scenario, having the tandem of Floyd and Britt on the perimeter of an offense that features Chris Johnson would be a nightmare for most defenses. Should Britt follow in the infamous footsteps of Pacman Jones, Floyd could very likely grow into the role of a primary receiver, and should be able to deliver around 700 yards and 5-10 TDs per season.
Amidst chatter of the Titans' interest in Braylon Edwards, Floyd may actually prove to be a better option for the Titans. He is more consistent, would likely come with a lower price tag, and does not have the history of off-the-field legal problems that Edwards has; a consideration that will be vital given Britt's recent misbehavior.
As of yet, the Titans have not made moves to re-sign their reliable fullback Ahmard Hall. In the end, Hall's character, consistency and leadership will most likely amount to enough value for the Titans to ensure that he will remain in Tennessee for the foreseeable future. However, there are some intriguing free agent options that the franchise may be exploring to upgrade the backfield as Hall tests the open market.
John Kuhn is one such free agent who is drawing considerable interest. Kuhn is a versatile player who blocks and catches passes well. He has also proven his mettle as a short-yardage and goal-line runner. At 250 lbs, Kuhn carries a big load and would be a nice compliment to the fleet-footed CJ. Kuhn proved last season that he is consistent and productive as a role-playing back, and he would add a valuable dimension to the Titans offense.
Update: The Titans have predictably re-signed Ahmard Hall to a one-year contract, temporarily closing the door on such backfield upgrades as John Kuhn.
Titans fans know that strong safety has been a position of concern for a couple of years now. The organization has enjoyed good production from Chris Hope over the years. But Hope has become a liability as his age appears to have caught up with him and his swagger has become increasingly absent. The team has attempted to address this personnel need in the draft's late rounds recently, but the Titans are still dangerously thin at safety.
Atari Bigby is a player worthy of consideration for the Titans. He is a bit younger than Hope while still offering considerable experience. Bigby would bring an edgy toughness to the SS position to compliment the hard-nosed talent of Michael Griffin. He is better in coverage than an aging Hope, and would probably come at a bargain price because he missed significant time in 2010 due to injury. Bigby would be a nice veteran upgrade for the Titans as they develop their young talent in the secondary.
The Titans had some difficult decisions to make this offseason regarding which of their defensive ends (if any) they would retain, as Jason Babin, Jacob Ford and Dave Ball all became unrestricted free agents. Thus far, they have not elected to re-sign any of these defenders, and have stood by as Babin inked a lucrative deal with the Eagles following his breakout season.
No doubt there is cause for optimism in Nashville, in spite of the potential for the Titans to lose three of their productive DEs. Former first-round draft pick Derrick Morgan is poised to return to the lineup in 2011. If healthy, Morgan could very well have a substantial impact for a D-line which will be revamped for the upcoming season. Additionally, new Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray has indicated that the very effective and underrated DT Jason Jones will be moved to DE to allow him to utilize his quickness in more space.
However, Gray will want to add some depth to his line, particularly if he intends to implement the rotational line play that has proven so effective for the Titans in recent past. The team would be wise to re-sign Dave Ball to continue to work within this scheme.
Ball is an intelligent, high-motor player with a nose for the ball and an instinct which often leads him into his opponent's backfield. He has shown steady improvement and increased his productivity as he has been given more opportunities to see the field. There is reason to believe that this trend will continue, and that Ball will remain a productive player on a young D-line.
Update: Dave Ball and Jacob Ford have both just inked one-year contracts with the Titans, ensuring that there is a heavy rotation of productive veterans on the Titans' D-line in 2011.
The insipid play of the Titans offensive line was a significant part of the lack of success that plagued the team in 2010. Typically, the Titans O-line is one of the best in the league, given the fact that they are a team which has always been built to run the ball. However, the O-line is in a bit of disarray after a disappointing season, and is in dire need of stabilization.
In 2010, the Titans coaching staff gambled, shifting offensive linemen to new positions and inserting young players at crucial spots. Clearly this gamble did not pay dividends, and the Titans offense is left wanting for an experienced, disciplined and consistent player to anchor the line.
Jonathan Goodwin is a solid free agent center who could become the glue that holds the Titans O-line together. Goodwin has ideal size while displaying considerable quickness for an interior lineman. He is experienced while not being too "long in the tooth," and could conceivably stabilize the Titans O-line for years to come.