The Tennessee Titans locked up another of their impending free agents on Thursday, re-signing defensive lineman Ropati Pitoitua to a three-year deal.
Like other recent re-signee Bernard Pollard, Pitoitua was widely considered another player the Titans would likely be very interested in retaining for new coordinator Ray Horton's defense. He was a 3-4 defensive end with the Jets and Chiefs before joining the Titans, so with Horton's 3-4 history it seemed like a natural fit. I had some doubts about it being a perfect fit. As I noted in the DE positional analysis, the Chiefs in particular were a very "traditional" two-gap 3-4 rather than the more attacking one-gap 3-4 Horton has run in Arizona and Cleveland and seems likely to run in Tennessee. Barring dysfunctional weirdness like the Texans and Ed Reed last year, the Titans would not have kept Pitoitua without Horton's imprimatur. My concern was primarily a prospective one, so the very fact the Titans signed him meant they liked him more than I thought they would.
As I noted when I discussed Horton's defense in the DT positional analysis, especially in Cleveland, he tended to heavily rotate his defensive linemen. No Browns DL last year played more than 54% of the time. I would expect his role to be as largely a rotational defensive lineman, probably in that familiar end role in base downs and rarely playing in sub packages. I would expect that makes him a 30-35 snap a game player. Pitoitua last year played 36 snaps a game, which was right at that Browns-leading 54% mark. In other words, he will probably be roughly the same guy he was in 2013.
Given that any re-signing meant the big question I had about Pitoitua's future with the Titans was answered affirmatively, I had no objection to the Titans bringing him back (barring a Reed-Texans situation). The big question for me about bringing him back, though, was the money; just what is a rotational defensive tackle who does not rush the passer worth? I expected Pitoitua to get a decent raise over his $1.15 million total compensation last year. The full numbers, per Aaron Wilson: three years, $9.6 million, or a bit under three times what he made last year. That's starter-type money; not quite as much as they gave Sammie Lee Hill last season, but in the same ballpark ($3.2 million average per year for Pitoitua v $3.8 million for Hill). I will never begrudge a player for getting as much money as they can get, but from the GM-like perspective I normally adopt, that's a good bit of money for a player who probably will not even be on the field in the game's most important situations, let alone an impact player there.
Based on my numbers, the Titans have about $8.75 million in cap space after Pitoitua's contract is added. Still plenty of room to work with, especially given all the room they could easily create with some of those potential releases I noted earlier today.