The Titans on Monday brought back a familiar name, signing defensive tackle Antonio Johnson to a one-year deal. He spent 2012 with the Indianapolis Colts.
The man known as Mookie was a fifth-round pick by the Titans back in 2007 who failed to make the 53-man roster. The Colts plucked him off their practice squad in 2008 and gave him 46 starts over the next five seasons. In their transition to the 3-4 last year, he primarily played nose tackle for a defensive line that was probably worse than the Titans'. He's a better fit as a 4-3 defensive tackle than as a 3-4 nose, but 1.5 career sacks and the fact that he's on the street in May should give you an idea of precisely what kind of player the NFL sees Johnson as.
The big question is what does this mean for the defensive line mix? I've written before on my struggles to figure this group out. Johnson gives the Titans 11 defensive linemen who spent 2012 on an NFL 53-man roster. That does not include Zach Clayton, who spent all of 2011 on the Titans' roster, or fifth-round pick Lavar Edwards. The Titans will be cutting at least three of those 13 players. The watchword that was trotted out was "competition," and the Titans certainly have a lot of that on the defensive line. If I were an irredeemable cynic, I'd suggest linebacker, cornerback, and running back as positions that could use more competition. I'm also not sure what niche Johnson fills that wasn't met. At 6'3", 310 pounds, he's slightly larger than some of the other defensive linemen, but he's also not a plus-size player of the type that Sammie Lee Hill is and Jerry Gray has wished for. But, hey, competition!