Offseason In Review: Tennessee Titans

Notable signings:

Notable losses:

Extensions and restructures:

  • Kamerion Wimbley (DE/OLB): Restructured contract. Base salaries and cap hits reduced for 2014, 2015, and 2016. Received $2.55MM in total roster bonuses and workout bonuses (not all guaranteed).
  • Craig Stevens (TE): Restructured contract. Base salary for 2014 reduced from $3.4MM to $1.6MM in exchange for $500K guaranteed and up to $100K in roster bonuses.


  • Acquired a second-round pick (No. 54) and a fourth-round pick (No. 122) from the Eagles in exchange for a second-round pick (No. 42).
  • Acquired a sixth-round pick (No. 178) from the Redskins in exchange for a sixth-round pick (No. 186) and a seventh-round pick (No. 228).

Draft picks:

  • Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan (1.11)
  • Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington (2.54): Signed
  • Daquan Jones, DT, Penn State (4.112): Signed
  • Marqueston Huff, CB Wyoming (4.122): Signed
  • Avery Williamson, LB, Kentucky (5.151): Signed
  • Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU (6.178): Signed


  • Hired Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt as head coach.
  • Hired Jason Michael and Ray Horton as offensive and defensive coordinators.
  • Have discussed extension for Jurrell Casey.
  • Declined Jake Locker‘s fifth-year option for 2015 ($14.666MM).
  • Signed 13 rookie free agents after the draft.

In the years following the departure of former head coach Jeff Fisher, the Titans struggled to remain relevant, finishing 9-7, 6-10, and 7-9 in three seasons with Mike Munchak at the helm. Tennessee seemed rudderless, especially on offense, and questionable personnel decisions by general manager Ruston Webster only exacerbated the team’s lack of direction. A coaching staff overhaul might be the first step towards determining a team identity, but the Titans’ offseason moves leave much to be desired, as it simply doesn’t appear the team got any better.Michael Oher

Replacing Munchak as head coach will be Ken Whisenhunt, the former Cardinals head coach, who spent 2013 as the Chargers’ offensive coordinator. While he brought former San Diego tight end coach Jason Michael with him to Tennessee to serve as offensive coordinator, Whisenhunt will call the plays himself. In addition to changing the Titans’ scheme (he favors a more spread out attack than the previous regime), the 52-year-old will bring Super Bowl experience to Nashville.

Whisenhunt is known as something of a quarterback guru — he helped develop Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, and revived the careers of Kurt Warner and Philip Rivers in Arizona and San Diego, respectively. In Tennessee, he faces perhaps his most difficult challenge in reversing the fortunes of 2011 first-rounder Jake Locker. The Titans declined their 2015 option on the fourth-year QB, meaning 2014 is perhaps his best and final chance to prove he is an NFL-caliber starter. If he fails in-season, the team can turn to backup Charlie Whitehurst, who signed a two-year, $4.25MM deal after spending last season under Whisenhunt in San Diego, or sixth-round rookie Zach Mettenberger, who fits the mold of big-bodied quarterbacks that Whisenhunt has favored over his career.

While the Titans are using 2014 as a decision-making year at the quarterback position, they acted more swiftly at the running back spot. They released longtime ball-carrier Chris Johnson, creating $6MM in cap space in the process. Tennessee selected Washington product Bishop Sankey in the second round, and will pair him with holdover Shonn Greene to form a 1-2 punch at RB. Joining them will Dexter McCluster, added on a three-year $9MM pact, who despite playing primarily receiver in his career, is expected to play the Danny Woodhead-role in Whisenhunt’s offense. If McCluster does see time at pass-catcher, he will join an impressive position group, headlined by Kendall Wright, Nate Washington, and Justin Hunter, that hasn’t seen much turnover since 2013 (Kenny Britt left for St. Louis, but he wasn’t a factor last year).

Tennessee’s most questionable roster machinations over the past few months have involved the offensive line. First, the Titans released longtime right tackle David Stewart, a reasonable move both because Stewart’s play had suffered and it cleared over $6MM off the books. However, Stewart is to be replaced in the starting lineup by free agent signee Michael Oher (four years, $20MM), who was even worse in 2013, grading out just the 68th-best tackle in the league, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Compounding that move was another head-scratcher — the drafting of Taylor Lewan at pick No. 11. With stalwart Michael Roos manning the left side, one of Oher or Lewan will have no place to play, meaning the Titans seemingly misused either $20MM or a first-round pick.

While the Titans’ offense might face a learning curve in 2014, the defense, which will also undergo a scheme change, boasts more talent, and should improve upon last season’s 22nd-ranked DVOA. New coordinator Ray Horton ostensibly runs a 3-4 look, but is a major proponent of multiple fronts, meaning versatility will be key. The most visible difference will probably be at linebacker, where Derrick Morgan (entering a contract year) and Kamerion Wimbley will be asked to switch from hand-in-the-ground ends to stand-up outside linebackers. Joining them in the LB rotation will be inside ‘backer Wesley Woodyard, who signed a four-year contract worth $15.75MM, and OLB Shaun Phillips, added from Denver on a two-year, $5MM deal.

Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, a 2013 breakout star who finished as PFF’s fifth-best DT, will be making the switch to nose tackle in Horton’s front. In a typical 3-4 defense, a NT would be asked to fill two gaps (essentially take up space); in Horton’s modified look, however, Casey will still only be assigned one gap, meaning he will still have the freedom to do what he does best — rush the passer. To help solidify the line, Tennessee re-signed Ropati Pitoitua on a three-year deal, added Al Woods from Pittsburgh, and drafted Daquan Jones in the fourth round. Pitoitua and Woods will help at end, while Jones is more of a classic 3-4 tackle, but all three exhibit the requirement of Horton-coached player — versatility.

The secondary will see some change — while safety will continue to be a three-man rotation between Michael Griffin, Bernard Pollard (re-signed on a two-year pact), and George Wilson, the cornerback position suffered the loss of Alterraun Verner, who signed with the Buccaneers. The Titans selected CB Marqueston Huff out of Wyoming in the fourth round, but Verner’s vacated spot will be filled by the winner of a Blidi Wreh-Wilson/Coty Sensabaugh/Tommie Campbell battle; the victor will play opposite veteran Jason McCourty.

Work is left to be done in Tennessee; extensions for Casey and Morgan are possible, and the offensive line needs to be sorted out. But 2014 will be an important year for the Titans. Failure could result in wholesale changes at key positions like quarterback and offensive tackle, while success could mean a new contract for Locker and praise for Whisenhunt and his staff. A winning season isn’t necessarily expected for the Titans next season, but improvement is — how well new schemes on both sides of the ball fare will determine how much more development is needed.

Spotrac and Over the Cap were used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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