Many of us are guilty at times of being short-sighted when it comes to the draft, looking at upgrades that are hoped for now while overlooking future needs. In that vein, I believe it’s a good idea to take a look at the Titans starters (or those who could be starters) in 2012 whose contracts will expire at the end of this season.
Seven players in the last year of their contracts are now penciled in as starters for the 2012 edition of the Titans and the following questions need to be asked about each of them. Will he be retained after this season? If not, who will replace him? Someone currently on the roster or a player who will be drafted this year? These are questions GM Ruston Webster will address and something we need to consider as we await the 2012 draft.
We’ll look at all seven of these players, and the possibility of drafting now to eventually replace those players, after the jump.
G Leroy Harris – It’s widely expected that Steve Hutchinson will take over Harris’ spot at left guard with Harris currently the favorite to move to the vacant right guard position. I don’t have a huge problem with that as a short term solution at RG, but unless Harris performs unexpectedly well there, I’d prefer someone else as the RG from 2013 forward. Drafting a RG to fill that future starting role will be just fine with me and if David DeCastro is somehow still available when the Titans select at #20, so much the better.
LB Will Witherspoon – It was a fortuitous happenstance when Spoon became available to take over Keith Bulluck’s longtime weakside LB spot and he manned it decently in his first season wearing two-tone blue. However, he declined some last year and he’ll be 32 years old when the 2012 season starts. The position will be in need of an upgrade by next year, if not before the end of this coming season. Spoon’s backup, Gerald McRath, who is also in the final year of his contract, probably wouldn’t provide that upgrade. As Tom advocated, in his positional analysis of the OLBs, the Titans should consider drafting another Will by the third or fourth round to be groomed as the starter for 2013. Perhaps he’ll even need to replace Spoon this season. Colin McCarthy replaced Barrett Ruud in midseason last year and that worked out pretty well.
S Michael Griffin – He received the franchise tag by the Titans, probably because the upcoming (at that time) free agent safety market was dwindling and Webster didn’t see an adequate replacement for Griffin. I’ll bet he drafts that replacement if he has one in mind he can get without reaching too far. I don’t foresee Griffin as a Tennessee Titan beyond this season. If Webster doesn’t draft his replacement now, he’ll have to find one next year.
CB Jason McCourty – Hopefully Webster will offer, and McCourty will accept, a multi-year contract extension within the next ten months. Even if Webster plans to make that happen, I expect him to select a corner at some point in the draft, one who can compete for the third corner/nickel role. I hope Webster believes in the old adage that you can’t have too many good cornerbacks.
DT Sen’Derrick Marks – Defensive tackle is a position of need both for this year and probably next year as well, so it will, or at least should, be addressed in the 2012 draft. Marks, who was a second-round draft pick three years ago, has been a huge disappointment thus far. If he doesn’t improve this year, don’t expect him to be back for another season, which makes drafting another DT all the more important.
TE Jared Cook – The brief courtship of Joel Dreessen indicated the Titans aren’t satisfied with their depth (Daniel Graham and Cameron Graham) so drafting a tight end won’t surprise me, though it wouldn’t necessarily be as a future replacement for Cookie. If Cook continues to progress as he did last season, I expect him to be rewarded with an offer for a new deal, just as McCourty should be.
FB Quinn Johnson – Penciled in to be the starter, at least for the time being, he’s not a great blocker and not an upgrade over former starter Ahmard Hall. I seriously doubt if the Titans will carry two fullbacks on the roster, so if one is drafted, it will almost assuredly be to replace Johnson this year, not next. It wouldn’t surprise me if a fullback is drafted in the fifth or sixth round.
You can make a strong case for drafting someone at each of those seven positions. Unfortunately, the Titans only have seven draft picks this year and also have a high priority need to draft another defensive end. They don’t have enough picks to draft players with the credentials to become quality starters so Webster will need to make some judicious decisions on which positions to address.
Best wishes and good luck on your first NFL draft as a GM, Ruston. We’re all pulling for you for another great draft like the one you received a lot of credit for last year.
Extra point: There are seven more Titans in the final year of their contracts who are notable players, guys who have seen regular playing time whether as rotational players, situational players or injury substitutions. They are RB Javon Ringer, LB Gerald McRath, CB Ryan Mouton, G/C Fernando Velasco, DE Malcolm Sheppard, C/G Kevin Matthews and K Rob Bironas.