In April, prior to the draft, I wrote about the Titans who would be in the final year of their contracts this season and how the Titans might draft to replace some of them. Now that the Titans have drafted seven new players, added some undrafted free agents and signed a few veteran free agents, it’s time to revisit the subject to evaluate the impact of those events, if any.
Four of the Titans in the final year of their contracts are starters and several more see considerable playing time as part of a rotation at their respective positions. We’ll look at all of them, beginning with the starters, after the jump.
G Leroy Harris – Since the Titans didn’t draft anyone to replace Harris, they will probably have to replace him next year. The Titans did sign veteran free agents Kyle DeVan and Jon Cooper, but neither should seriously challenge Harris for a starting job. As I wrote before, Harris does not seem to me to be a long-term solution at right guard. He will need to have a good season this year if he wants to remain a Titan in 2013.
LB Will Witherspoon – This is one instance where the Titans did draft a replacement for a current starter. Second-round draft pick Zach Brown should take over at weakside linebacker, if he shows he can actually play, which has been questioned. If he can, this will probably be Witherspoon’s last season in two-tone blue.
S Michael Griffin – It seems that the only reason the Titans used the franchise tag on Griffin was because the free agent market for safeties started to dry up before free agency commenced. If Griffin hadn’t been tagged, he would have gone elsewhere and someone less skilled would be taking his place. With any luck, either Griffin will finally show some consistency or sixth-round draft pick Markelle Martin will show that he can be a satisfactory alternative. I am a little puzzled by John Glennon’s report that GM Ruston Webster is talking to Griffin’s agent about a new contract. Perhaps Webster is only seeking a more cap-friendly deal before the July 15 deadline (Griffin’s tender is for $6.2M this year.) I have an uneasy feeling that Webster likes Griffin a whole lot more than I and most Titans fans do.
CB Jason McCourty – I wrote in the April 5 piece, which I linked to above, that the Titans ought to try to get McCourty resigned. Jim Wyatt now reports negotiations for an extension are underway.
DT Sen’Derrick Marks – For the last three years, the former second-round draft pick has looked like he shouldn’t have been drafted until much later. Like Harris, he’ll need to have a very good year if he wants to be a Titan next year.
TE Jared Cook – I also wrote that Cook is another player the Titans ought to re-sign. The Titans might feel otherwise if Cook doesn’t produce this year and if fifth-round draft pick Taylor Thompson does.
FB Quinn Johnson – It wouldn’t surprise me if Johnson loses his roster spot to rookie UDFA Collin Mooney, as I predicted here. It’s also possible, though somewhat improbable, that the Titans decide not to keep a fullback this year since OC Chris Palmer plans to install parts of the Run and Shoot into the Titans offense. One of the characteristics of the Run and Shoot (4 WR, 1 RB) is that there isn’t a fullback. Another characteristic is that there isn’t a tight end, but the TE isn’t in danger of being scrapped in Tennessee. (At SMU, which ran the Run and Shoot, there weren’t any TEs on the roster, which is why Taylor Thompson was switched to defensive end.)
RB Javon Ringer – He’s a good pass protector and a good receiver, which are two reasons to keep a backup running back. I expect to see him back in 2013.
LB Gerald McRath – Brown’s addition should push McRath back to third on the depth chart and his job is in jeopardy this year. If he makes the roster, it will be as a special teams contributor.
CB Ryan Mouton – The addition of fourth-round draft pick Coty Sensabaugh puts Mouton’s roster spot in danger.
G/C Fernando Velasco – The problems with the interior line are many. Harris and Eugene Amano have been disappointments. Steve Hutchinson is getting older, hasn’t been able to stay healthy, and has contemplated retirement. Although I don’t see Velasco as an answer to the problems, he might be retained for depth.
C/G Kevin Matthews – See above on Velasco.
DE Malcolm Sheppard – He’ll compete strongly for a roster spot this year. He’ll need to earn one to be considered for another contract.
K Rob Bironas – Dependable kickers have a tendency to stick around for a long time, sometimes even after they lose leg strength. He’s another that will probably be re-signed for another four years.
Predictions: McCourty, Cook, Ringer, Velasco and Bironas will all be re-signed to multi-year deals for 2013 and beyond. 2012 will be the final season in two-tone blue for Harris, Witherspoon and Marks. If Griffin is re-signed, I sure hope it’s because he earned a new contract with a good 2012 season and not because the Titans are afraid of losing him.