The Tennessee Titans on Friday continued the revamping of their defense, signing free agent linebacker Wesley Woodyard, formerly of the Denver Broncos, to a contract. Multiple reports indicate it is a four-year deal.
Woodyard joined the Broncos out of Kentucky as an undrafted free agent in 2008. He became a regular starter in 2012 and started 10 of the 14 games he played in 2013. He was moved out of the startling lineup late in the season, thanks in part to a neck injury sustained earlier in the season. Even though, he was not a starter, though, he continued to play in the Broncos' nickel packages. He has experience playing at both MLB and WLB and in both the 4-3 and 3-4. Listed at 6'0, 233 pounds, he is best suited as a space player.
For the Titans, Woodyard will be an inside linebacker, or what I have been referring to as an off-the-ball linebacker. I anticipate that he will start and play in all situations. The common assumption seems to be that Woodyard's arrival means the Titans see Zach Brown as a backup. I don't agree with that and think defensive coordinator Ray Horton could see Brown and Woodyard as a perfectly fine starting combination at ILB. If Brown isn't starting, it says much more about Horton's evaluation of Brown as a player than it does about any particular issues playing Brown and Woodyard next to each other. Granted, both players are much better in space and must be protected from opposing offensive linemen, but Horton has already indicated that building a defensive line that could do that is one of his priorities. Hopefully he will do a better job of it than Jerry Gray did in 2011.
Woodyard's four-year deal has been reported with a total value of $16 million. Based on the McCluster, Woods, and Whitehurst deals, all of which have had total values significantly inflated over their base salary + bonus values, my guess is the "real" value of his deal is somewhat less. Either way, that's a pretty reasonable contract for a linebacker who can be a positive in sub package situations and, turning 28 in July, is still young enough he could be an effective player for the life of the deal.