With the start of NFL free agency set to start at 3 p.m. CST this afternoon, every team in the league is searching for help to fill whatever needs remain on their rosters. Only a select few teams, including the Titans desperately need a big splash signing of an immediate impact player to not only fill a hole but to hopefully energize a slumping fan base.
Just one year ago the Nashville and Titans fans were abuzz over the potential signing of Peyton Manning, but when Manning finally announced he was signing with Denver, that buzz along with several other impact free agents were gone.
There is no Manning type player in the Titans sights this year, but for the team the top targets on this year’s list might be even more important.
The Titans are in good shape against the salary cap with roughly $18.3 million in cap space after the announcement late last night that guard Steve Hutchinson was retiring.
Hutchinson, who played twelve, seasons in the NFL with Minnesota, Seattle and last season with the Titans before a season ending knee injury in week twelve put him on injured reserve was scheduled to earn $4.75 million with a $500,000 bonus. His retirement added some of that back to the cap room.
While the Titans cap number is good, and there is room to add some quality players, it is nowhere near the league’s best where the Cleveland Browns are rumored to have $47 million to spend.
So the Titans must get great value and avoid the urge to get into a bidding war and overspending on one player at one position especially when you have as many needs as the Titans.
Most people believe that Buffalo free agent guard Andy Levitre is the Titans top target as the offensive line is perhaps the top priority. Levitre is considered the top guard available in this free agent class, and at only 27, he has been durable and dependable for the Bills, grading out as the ninth best guard in the league last season and first in pass protection. Levitre would be a solid addition to the Titans line.
San Diego’s Louis Vasquez is the second rated guard and could be an option of Levitre signs elsewhere.
While it is possible that the Titans could sign two guards in free agency, the prevailing thought is that they will only sign one and look to fill the other guard spot through the upcoming draft.
Alabama’s Chance Warmack and North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper are the top two draft eligible guards, both are considered first round talents while Kentucky’s Larry Warford is also thought to be a possibility in the second round.
Defensive end is also a need area for the Titans and more specifically a pass rusher.
Osi Umenyiora, John Abraham, Dwight Freeney and Michael Bennett are the top names at defensive end. Chris Canty is also a possibility and came to town last month for a visit with Titans officials. Canty is currently on a visit to Baltimore and is recieving interest from other teams as well.
Abraham and Bennett are thought to be the best pass rushers with Bennett being the better of the two, but he is also thought to have a higher asking price.
Bennett might also come with another enticement for the Titans to pursue him. His younger brother is tight end Martellus Bennett, and rumor has it that the two would like to play together which would work for the Titans considering their need for a tight end to replace Jared Cook who is expected to “break the bank” when he decides where he will sign in free agency.
The Titans might also have an inside track to the Bennett’s as Michael has a special relationship with Titans defensive pass rush coach Keith Millard from their time together in Tampa Bay.
The problem here is again money. To sign both the Bennett’s might be too rich for the Titans to manage.
Dustin Keller, who spent last season on the New York Jets roster is another tight end possibility and is considered to be a more budget friendly option that Martellus Bennett.
There is no doubt that the Titans need to make a splash in this free agency and then follow that up with what people would consider a top tier draft to reinvigorate the fan base, but there is a lot of work to do today and through the remainder of free agency.
In a perfect world the Titans would sign Levitre and both Michael and Martellus Bennett, thus addressing their biggest needs on the o-line along with a tight end and pass rusher, but the likelihood of that happening is not high.
Signing Levitre would be huge, and adding one of the pass rushers would be a nice addition. Finding a player in all three positions would be the topping, but again, can the Titans pull it off?
It won’t be long now until players can sign, but don’t be surprised if players aren’t jumping to sign as soon as the clock strikes three.
For the Titans, it doesn’t matter when, as long as they are able to fill some needs and hopefully with some better than average players.