Assessing the Titans’ roster after two weeks of free agency: Defense

We're now a bit over two weeks into free agency. The main rush has ended, and the Titans have made all the major moves they're likely to make. I thought it would be useful, as we approach the draft and the rest of the offseason to step back a little bit and see where the Titans stand, in terms of what they've done and what holes on the depth chart remain to be filled. I covered the offense earlier this week, which means it's time to cover the defense. As I did for the offense, I will go position by position.

Defensive Line
Moves: Re-signed Keyunta Dawson, signed Sammie Lee Hill, signed Ropati Pitoitua
Roster: Jurrell Casey, Zach Clayton, Keyunta Dawson, Thaddeus Gibson, DaJohn Harris, Sammie Lee Hill, Karl Klug, Mike Martin, Derrick Morgan, Ropati Pitoitua, Scott Solomon, Kamerion Wimbley
Commentary: I covered the defensive line at some length in my post on the Pitoitua signing, so I'll keep this relatively brief. The Titans right now have roughly three pure ends, one end-leaning tweener, and four, maybe four tackles. I think they like their tackles. I think they think they're relatively set at end, though they could still use an upgrade. I think they could be interested in another tweener. I think they have enough flexibility in their planning they could do almost anything in the draft, from taking a tackle (unlikely) or an end (likelier) in the first round to not addressing the position at all. There were technically five, realistically three holes on the depth chart, and the three moves they made filled them.

 

 Linebacker
Moves: Signed Moise Fokou
Roster: Akeem Ayers, Patrick Bailey, Zach Brown, Moise Fokou, Colin McCarthy, Tim Shaw
Commentary: The Titans entered the offseason set at the starter position but with needs at backup in the middle for McCarthy and for Brown on the weakside. Fokou has played in both places before, so he at least nominally fills them. That said, that's one player and two holes. The Titans pursued Brad Jones, which I think is a pretty good indicator that two holes = two needs = two players. I think we saw last year that Shaw and Bailey are both pure special teams players who should not be counted or even necessarily thought of as quality backups. Expect the Titans to add at least one player here, but I don't think it'll be a major acquisition or major investment. This could be in the draft, but given the youth of the starters I suspect it's likelier to be a moderately-priced veteran.

Cornerback
Moves: None
Roster: Tommie Campbell, Jason McCourty, Coty Sensabaugh, Alterraun Verner
Commentary: One hole on the depth chart, at LCB-2 created by the departure of Ryan Mouton in free agency. I said it was not a priority to fill, but the bigger question is what the Titans do about slot corner. I wrote about it some in the cornerback positional analysis, but I'm still confused. Mouton played there the first half of the year, but he's not coming back. Sensabaugh played there the second half of the year, and, well, played like an inexperienced rookie. He should be better in his second season, but I don't think he's an ideal slot corner. Verner played there as a rookie, but has barely played there in the two years Jerry Gray has been defensive coordinator. There's a place here for at least one more body, and I think they could (should, even) add somebody to play the slot. That could be a moderately-priced veteran or it could be a rookie, more likely a mid-round prospect.

Safety
Moves: Signed George Wilson, released Jordan Babineaux, signed Bernard Pollard
Roster: Al Afalava, Michael Griffin, Robert Johnson, Markelle Martin, Bernard Pollard, Suaesi Tuimaunei, George Wilson, Tracy Wilson
Commentary: There was no nominal hole on the depth chart here, and Pollard filled the one created by Babineaux's release. The Titans have a ton of bodies at the position, but beyond Griffin, Pollard, and Wilson, I'm not sure which, if any, are a lock to make the team. I thought strong safety could be a real option in the second or third round of the draft (I was really hoping for Cyprien at 40), but Pollard and Wilson are a relatively solid 1-2 at strong safety. Griffin is under a long-term deal, and I think the Titans like him. Given that, some combination of Robert Johnson and Markelle Martin will likely suffice for them as a backup free safety. As with defensive line, a pick here wouldn't shock me, aside from in the first round, but it also wouldn't surprise me to see them not make any additions.

I'll probably be referring to these posts when I start draft coverage next week and look at what the Titans might do there.

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