The Tennessee Titans buttressed their weakest position today, signing free agent defensive end/outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley to a multi-year contract. Adam Caplan, who broke the signing, reports that it’s a 5-year deal for $35 million, including $13.5 million guaranteed, $9 million signing bonus, and total 2012 compensation of $11.5 million.
Wimbley was originally drafted by the Browns in the first round of the 2006 draft out of Florida State and spent the first four years of his career there as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense before joining the Raiders’ version of the 4-3. At least in 2011, he played a mix of strongside outside linebacker, more or less the same position Akeem Ayers played for the Titans last year, and defensive end in the Raiders’ nickel and dime packages. When he had his hand down, he played a mix of left defensive end and right defensive end, mostly the latter after RDE Matt Shaughnessy was lost early in the season. He had 7.0 sacks in 2011, 4.0 of them in one game against the San Diego Chargers where Brandyn Dombrowski was forced to play left tackle. Mike Munchak indicated that he’ll play full-time at defensive end for the Titans.
Because Wimbley was in the process of negotiating a potential restructuring of his deal with the Raiders, I didn’t include him in my assessment of the available defensive ends. Watching the Raiders in 2011, when at defensive end, Wimbley was a player who looked first, foremost, primarily, and almost exclusively to get outside and turn the corner on the offensive tackle. As one insider noted, he has “unique cornering ability,” but doesn’t always get the corner. Better offensive tackles can overplay the corner and recover if he tries the inside move, but lesser ones can’t. At his worst, he’ll end up doing a lot of running around ineffectively. The Raiders also used line games at times to good effect, with Wimbley heading inside. He didn’t get most of his sacks this way, but I’d expect the Titans to do that some.
I’m very curious to see how the Titans make use of him. Jerry Gray has talked a lot about having both a player who can be a plus rusher with his hand in the ground and one standing up. I’ve been curious to see who will fill the latter role, as the only real viable candidate on the roster has been Akeem Ayers. Wimbley has a lot of experience standing up, and is a player who may be better able to generate power in his rush when he does stand up. I don’t think we’ll see much of Wimbley dropping into coverage, which is a big positive. With his hand in the ground and his love for the edge rush, he’s not a player you can necessarily rely on to be stout at the point of attack.
Still, beyond Mario Williams, there was no defensive end available in free agency who was a plus both as a rusher and a passer, and especially not a player like that who’s still on the right side of 30 (28, turning 29 in December). Given the Peyton-or-bust pursuit ended with a bust, the Titans couldn’t be a player for Williams. Wimbley isn’t an elite player, but of the options available to the Titans, he was the best choice.
I think the Titans will, or at least should, add one more veteran defensive end in free agency. I wouldn’t think it would be a big name, or at least a high-dollar name. Mark Anderson’s agent took him out of the running as a Titans target with the news of the Wimbley signing. With Wimbley’s occasional unsoundness against the run, I now think there’s a chance the Titans could look to re-sign William Hayes if he comes cheap to be a rotational player, primarily on early downs.