Close to a month into the new League Year, the exciting part of free agency has mostly passed. That means as we move toward the draft, it’s time to take stock of what the Titans have done to fill their pre-free agency needs. As I did before free agency began, I’m going to use the final regular season depth chart to identify those holes.
Holes Filled Before Free Agency Began
WR1-2: There are two starting WR slots, which are semi-arbitratily designated WR1 and WR2. Lavelle Hawkins was re-signed to fill this spot.
LT-2/RT-2: Mike Otto was listed as the primary backup at both left tackle and right tackle, and was re-signed. Byron Stingily was listed as the third-string player at both positions.
FS-1: Michael Griffin was hit with the franchise tag.
Holes Filled Since My Post Last Month
RG-1 (tenative): With Steve Hutchinson signed to play left guard, Leroy Harris is now available to play right guard. As Andrew pointed out, though, this should not be confused with a long-term answer at right guard, but it is a plausiable short-term one.
RDE-1: Welcome, Kamerion Wimbley.
SLB-2: Officially Patrick Bailey, who re-signed with the team for clearly backup/special teams money.
MLB-2: Officially Tim Shaw, see above re Bailey. Note that with Barrett Ruud on IR, the Titans for much of last season carried three middle linebackers. Unlike Bailey, Shaw did see some time on defense.
SS-1: Jordan Babineaux was re-signed to a two-year deal.
WR2-2: The final depth chart did not include Kenny Britt. The Titans seem to be fairly happy with a top four receiving corps of Britt, Nate Washington, Lavelle Hawkins, and Damian Williams. To me, that’s two more or less scrubs, one decent player, and one potential star with a scary injury history coming off an injury that may have both near and long-term negative impacts on his performance. It would not shock me to see the Titans draft a receiver anywhere or not draft a receiver at all.
FB-1: Ahmard Hall is still a free agency. My current guess is Quinn Johnson is a heavy favorite to take the starting job, and I would not expect the Titans to draft a fullback at all.
LDE-2: Officially Dave Ball’s depth chart location, and the Titans are reportedly negotiating with Ball for a potential return. With two true defensive ends on the roster plus tweeners like Malcolm Sheppard and Leger Douzable, I expect the Titans to draft a defensive end as early as the first round.
RDE-2: Officially William Hayes, who justified my decision to leave him off my listing of free agent defensive ends by signing with the Rams. Even though this is the second defensive end listing, I do not expect the Titans to make adding two defensive ends a priority in this year’s draft.
SS-2: This was Chris Hope, but I think it unlikely he returns to the Titans. The Titans could use a draft pick on a potential long-term replacement for Babineaux, who turns 30 at the end of August. A draft pick would not be amiss here, but I wouldn’t expect it in the first three rounds.
FS-2: A bit of a fudge on my part, as this was Robert Johnson at the end of the year. For most of the season, though, it was Anthony Smith. The question is less whether Johnson can be a solid backup, but as Andrew wrote, whether the Titans will look to sign Michael Griffin to a longer-term deal as a least-worst option, if they see Johnson as a starter, or if they need to plan for the future. Safeties are hard to find, but it would not surprise me to see the Titans address free safety early in the draft, possibly even in the first by taking Dre Kirkpatrick as a conversion player.
RCB-1: Have fun in St. Louis, Cortland Finnegan. As I indicated in the cornerbacks positional analysis, I think the Titans are probably relatively happy with a 2012 starting duo of Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner. How high they draft a cornerback says more about what they think of the veteran corner market, Verner’s long-term potential, and any McCourty contract talks than anything else in my opinion. I don’t trust for a second any mock that says “The Titans lost Finnegan, therefore they’ll look more seriously at corners in the first round.” They could draft one, but I don’t think they think it’s a high priority.
LS-1: Ken Amato is still available, though they could look for another player who’s younger (though long-snappers can play into their forties) and offers greater positional versatility. They’re not drafting a long-snapper.
With these team needs and Andrew’s list of future needs in mind, I’ll finally start writing about players who might be available who might be what the Titans are looking for.