No one expected much out of the Titans in 2014, but their 2-14 mark was still a disappointment to fans. In the preseason, newly-hired head coach Ken Whisenhunt set the bar fairly high when he said that he wouldn’t need to exercise patience with his squad. In September, he realized that he had overestimated what he had on his roster. This time around, Whisenhunt is hoping for more out of his team. Fortunately, it shouldn’t be too hard to improve over last season.
- Derrick Morgan, OLB: Four years, $27MM. $8.5MM guaranteed.
- Brian Orakpo, OLB: Four years, $31MM. $8MM guaranteed.
- Da’Norris Searcy, S: Four years, $23.75MM. $7MM guaranteed.
- Brett Kern, P: Five years, $15MM. $5MM guaranteed.
- Harry Douglas, WR: Three years, $11.25MM. $3.75MM guaranteed.
- Ryan Succop, K: Three years, $7.2MM. $2.75MM guaranteed.
- Perrish Cox, CB: Three years, $15MM. $2.5MM guaranteed.
- Anthony Fasano, TE: Two years, $5.25MM. $1.125MM guaranteed.
- Karl Klug, DL: Two years, $3.75MM. $1MM guaranteed.
- Beau Brinkley, LS: Five years, $5.75MM. $840K guaranteed.
- Byron Stingily, T: Two years, $2.5MM. $250K guaranteed.
- Byron Bell, T: One year, $1.5MM. $250K guaranteed.
- Fernando Velasco, G: One year, $1.2MM. $250K guaranteed.
- Hakeem Nicks, WR: One year, $1.4MM. $100K guaranteed.
- Phillip Supernaw, TE: Two years, minimum salary.
- Kaelin Burnett, LB: One year, minimum salary.
Derrick Morgan was the Titans’ most important free agent heading into the offseason and many expected him to land elsewhere. After all, he is considered a better fit as a 4-3 defensive end, and he has never really lived up to his first-round billing in five seasons with the Titans. However, despite modest sack totals (his 6.5 in 2014 matched a career high), Morgan graded as a top-10 outside linebacker according to PFF, which ranked him eighth in 2014 and credited him with 49 total quarterback pressures. Morgan paid visits to the Falcons and Buccaneers and was reportedly scheduled to hit Dallas for a meeting with the Cowboys, but he instead reached a deal to stay in Tennessee.
In addition to retaining Morgan, the Titans went out-of-house to further fortify their pass rush. A few days after the official start of free agency, the Titans inked former Washington linebacker Brian Orakpo. Orakpo, 28, is coming off a disappointing 2014 season that ended after just seven games when he tore his pectoral muscle and was placed on injured reserve. Still, despite the fact that he logged just 0.5 sacks last year, the former first-round pick was viewed as one of the top free agent players a year ago, when he was coming off a 10.5-sack season and earned a franchise tag from Washington. He was ranked as the NFL’s fourth-best 3-4 outside linebacker in 2013 by Pro Football Focus’ grades (subscription required). Per PFF, Orakpo racked up an impressive 51 total quarterback pressures in ’13.
Da’Norris Searcy, 26, started a career-high 13 games for the Bills in 2014, racking up 65 tackles for the club to go along with three interceptions, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. The former fourth-round pick has shown a knack for coming up with big plays over the last couple years — in 2013, he scored touchdowns on an interception return and a fumble return. Having also been linked to the Giants, Bears, Colts, Texans, Raiders and Dolphins, Searcy had no shortage of suitors, but the Titans came out on top and got themselves a worthwhile replacement for Bernard Pollard.
In 2013, Harry Douglas emerged from the shadows in Atlanta when Julio Jones and Roddy White went down with injuries. That year, the wide receiver set new career highs in catches (85) and receiving yards (1,067). Jones and White returned to health for the 2014 season, and Douglas returned to his role as Matt Ryan‘s No. 3 target, but he still managed to rack up 51 receptions in just 12 games. Now, Douglas has reunited with ex-Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey (now Tennessee’s assistant head coach) and he could see a significant role in the Titans’ offense this season.
The Titans also signed another notable name at WR when they inked Hakeem Nicks. Once a star with the Giants, Nicks didn’t do a whole lot with the Colts in 2014, seeing career-low 68 passes thrown his way. Nicks finished the season with 405 yards and three touchdowns on 38 receptions and with other options at the position, it’s hard to see him getting significantly more targets.
The Titans brought in some support for tight end Delanie Walker when they signed former Chiefs tight end Anthony Fasano. Fasano wasn’t a focal point in KC’s offense thanks to the emergence of Travis Kelce, but he did see a lot of snaps in which he was asked to block.
Perrish Cox intercepted five passes for the 49ers in 2014, after playing limited snap counts for the team in 2012 and 2013. He also appeared in two games for the Seahawks in 2012 before returning to the 49ers. Now, he’ll help fortify the Titans’ secondary.
Brett Kern has been the Titans‘ punter in every season this decade, and the Titans made a move to ensure that happens in each subsequent year in the 2010s with a five-year deal. His new $15MM deal nearly triples the 29-year-old punter’s salary and puts him in the top 10 at the position on a per-year basis. Kern’s 46.8 yards per punt ranked fifth in the league last season.
The Titans also retained their placekicker, Ryan Succop, with a three-year deal. The 28-year-old converted 19 of his 22 field goal attempts, including both of his tries from 50+ yards. Succop also made all 27 of his extra-point attempts.
- Jackie Battle, RB
- Brett Brackett, TE: Waived
- Chase Coffman, TE
- Kris Durham, WR
- Shonn Greene, RB: Released
- Quentin Groves, LB
- Derek Hagan, WR
- Jake Locker, QB: Retired
- Colin McCarthy, LB
- Dontay Moch, LB: Waived
- Matthew Mulligan, TE
- Michael Oher, T: Released
- Eric Olsen, C/G
- Jordan Palmer, QB
- Bernard Pollard, S: Released
- Michael Roos, T: Retired
- Chris Spencer, C/G
- Will Svitek, T
- Taylor Thompson, TE: Waived
- Leon Washington, RB
- Nate Washington, WR
- George Wilson, S
- Kamerion Wimbley, OLB: Retired
Michael Oher‘s contract was considered pricey at the time of the signing and he did little to silence those critics while with the Titans. He also wasn’t terribly vital to the team’s plans following the selection of Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan in 2014. Therefore, it was not a shock to see him waived after just one season with Tennessee. Oher allowed six sacks and 26 quarterback hurries in eleven games in 2014 before landing on IR.
The Titans were not interested in a reunion with quarterback Jake Locker this offseason, but they also weren’t expecting him to walk away from the game altogether. The former first-round pick showed some flashes of talent throughout his brief career, and the 26-year-old had interest from teams, including the Eagles, but he decided to call it career after talking things over with his family. The former Tennessee playcaller never played more than 11 games in a season for Tennessee. In 2014, he was placed on IR in mid-December after suffering a shoulder injury.
Another familiar face in the Titans offense is no longer with the team – running back Shonn Greene. Greene, who will turn 30 later this month, joined the Titans in 2013 on the heels of a pair of 1,000-yard seasons with the Jets. However, the former third-round pick never matched the success he had in New York during his two seasons with the Titans. As a part-time contributor, Greene totaled 687 yards and six touchdowns over the course of the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
Bernard Pollard first requested his release back in late January and the Titans eventually agreed to cut him loose in March. He played in just five games last season before landing on injured reserve with an Achilles injury, but he was a solid player as recently as 2013, when he racked up 77 tackles while starting all 16 games, and rated as the league’s No. 21 safety among 86 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). In total, Pollard has amassed almost 550 tackles during his nine-year career, while adding 12 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles. The Titans found a replacement for Pollard when they inked Da’Norris Searcy in March.
Longtime Titans offensive lineman Michael Roos was slated to be one of the top offensive tackles on the free agent market, but in late February he decided to retire instead. Roos, 32, was remarkably durable during his time with the Titans until a knee injury prematurely ended his final season in the team this past October. Prior to this season, the former second-round pick had started all but one game over the course of nine years in Tennessee, almost exclusively at left tackle.
In his six years with the Titans, Nate Washington averaged over 50 catches per season in Tennessee. During the 2014 campaign, he saw just 72 targets, his lowest mark since joining the club, as Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter took on larger roles. Washington caught 40 balls for 647 yards and a pair of touchdowns during his final year in Tennessee.
- Craig Stevens, TE: Accepted a pay cut, reducing his 2015 salary from $3.5MM to $1.12MM. In exchange, he received a $350K guarantee on his salary, and $150K in incentives.
- Acquired a 2015 second-round pick (No. 40; WR Dorial Green-Beckham), a fourth-round pick (No. 108; FB Jalston Fowler), and a seventh-round pick (No. 245; WR Tre McBride) in exchange for a 2015 second-round pick (No. 33; Landon Collins).
- 1-2: Marcus Mariota, QB (Oregon): Signed
- 2-40: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR (Missouri): Signed
- 3-66: Jeremiah Poutasi, OL (Utah): Signed
- 4-100: Angelo Blackson, DT (Auburn): Signed
- 4-108: Jalston Fowler, FB (Alabama): Signed
- 5-138: David Cobb, RB (Minnesota): Signed
- 6-177: Deiontrez Mount, OLB (Louisville): Signed
- 6-208: Andy Gallik, C (Boston College): Signed
- 7-245: Tre McBride, WR (William & Mary): Signed
Throughout the offseason, there was widespread interest in Marcus Mariota from quarterback-needy teams and speculation that the Titans could move their No. 2 overall pick. At the end of the day, the Titans didn’t want to move the Oregon star for Philip Rivers or for a sizable package from the Eagles. Mariota, in the eyes of some, was the best quarterback in this year’s class. Fortunately for the Titans, the Buccaneers did not share that same opinion.
While Mariota is widely considered to be a “safe” pick, the same can’t be said for Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. Beckham has been a YouTube star for several years thanks to his highlight reel catches in high school, but he ran into some off-the-field issues at the college level. It remains to be seen whether DGB will pan out as an NFL talent.
- Hired former Steelers DC Dick LeBeau as assistant head coach.
- Parted ways with VP of player personnel Lake Dawson.
- Decided interim president Steve Underwood would continue to hold the position for 2015.
- Exercised 2016 fifth-year option for WR Kendall Wright ($7.32MM).
- Learned WR Justin Hunter was arrested for felonious assault and could face league discipline.
- Claimed OLB Jonathan Massaquoi off waivers from the Falcons.
- Re-signed CB Brandon Harris to one-year, minimum salary contract, then placed him on injured reserve when he tore his ACL.
- Signed eight players to futures contracts at end of season.
- Signed 13 undrafted rookie free agents following draft.
Justin Hunter was supposed to have a breakout season for the Titans in 2014, but that didn’t quite materialize. Hunter let down the organization again this offseason when he was arrested for felonious assault. Hunter’s legal situation will play out over the coming weeks and that will dictate the level of punishment he’ll receive from the league office.
Top 10 cap hits for 2015:
- Jason McCourty, CB: $8,600,000
- Andy Levitre, G: $8,600,000
- Michael Griffin, S: $8,100,000
- Jurrell Casey, DL: $6,720,000
- Delanie Walker, TE: $5,275,000
- Sammie Lee Hill, DT: $4,666,668
- Brian Orakpo, OLB: $4,468,750
- Derrick Morgan, OLB: $4,000,000
- Da’Norris Searcy, S: $3,625,000
- Ropati Pitoitua, DL: $3,612,500
The Titans don’t exactly look like world beaters heading into 2015, but they certainly look like an improved team heading in the right direction. Few people are picking them to win the division, but they could challenge the Colts and Texans down the road, maybe as soon as 2016.