The Titans’ defensive line played a significant role in the unit’s 2021 success, and the top of the depth chart is relatively settled heading into this season. One starting spot is up for grabs, though, and the team has a number of depth options to consider during training camp.
Another first-team role will belong to Denico Autry. The veteran’s first year in Tennessee was one of the most productive of his career. He matched a personal best with nine sacks and set a new mark with 18 QB hits, leading to optimism for the remaining two seasons of the deal he signed with the Titans last offseason. Who will join Simmons and Autry as a starter remains to be seen, though.
McCormick writes that former UDFAs Teair Tartand Naquan Jonesare the likeliest candidates for that spot. Tart registered 10 starts in 2021, seeing a defensive snap share of nearly 50% along the way. Jones, meanwhile, offered more pass-rushing potential with 2.5 sacks as a rookie; he is also a player the Titans “are high on” to take a step forward in 2022. The rest of the position group is set to be rounded out by some combination of former Lions Da’Shawn Handand Kevin Strong, and free agent signeeDeMarcus Walker.
One interesting name in this positional competition is Larrell Murchison. A 2020 fifth-rounder, the NC State alum has yet to claim a full-time starting role, and has totalled just 13 tackles so far in the NFL. Considering the talent and depth ahead of him, McCormick points out that Murchison’s roster spot could be “in jeopardy.” How the depth chart shakes out will depend on his training camp performance, and those of several intriguing options the Titans have at the position.
It’s no secret that Jeffery Simmons is interested in a new contract. The fourth-year defensive tackle staged a “hold-in” at the Titans’ mandatory minicamp this month. A “hold-in” is where a player attends the required sessions without competing in any of the drills. It’s meant to act as a hold-out without triggering any of the fines that would come along with not attending the required sessions.
Now both Simmons and the Titans’ coaches deny that the “hold-in” has anything to do with any contract issues. Titans head coach Mike Vrabelattributed his lack of participation to “the plan laid out by the team” in order for him to be ready for training camp, according to Terry McCormick of TitansInsider.com. Regardless, Simmons and Tennessee are going through the process of determining what the future holds for their union and it will likely require some negotiation.
Tennessee drafted Simmons out of Mississippi State with their first pick of the 2019 NFL Draft. Simmons had a slow start at the pro-level. A torn ACL suffered during draft prep kept him on the reserve/non-football injury list until mid-October of his rookie season. He promptly recorded a sack in his NFL debut, but only finished the season with 2.0 sacks, 4.0 tackles for loss, and 2 quarterback hits.
In his sophomore season, Simmons claimed his role as a full-time starter in the middle of the line, thanks in part to the departure of veteran Jurrell Casey to Denver. In his first full NFL season, Simmons showed improvement in his ability to apply pressure in the backfield with 14 quarterback hits, but struggled to convert those into strong finishes, only totaling 3.0 sacks and 3.0 tackles for loss by the end of the year. He did display a talent for batting balls at the line, a highly sought after trait for defensive linemen, recording 5 passes defensed in his second season.
2021 saw a breakout year for Simmons. Starting all 17 games of the newly-elongated season, Simmons recorded career-highs in sacks (8.5), total tackles (54), tackles for loss (12.0), quarterback hits (16), and passes defensed (6). Simmons was named a Pro Bowler and a second-team All-Pro.
While this was clearly a great season for Simmons, the best of his career, he still has a ways to go to reach the heights of the best athletic defensive tackles in the league. His pass rushing numbers are nowhere near those of the highest paid players at his position such as Aaron Donald, DeForest Buckner, or Chris Jones. Due to the room he still has to grow, it’s hard to imagine a long-term deal for Simmons reaching the heights of $20MM+ like the players listed above.
Hargrave had been drafted by Washington two years before Simmons entered the league. Hargrave ended up signing an three-year extension with an average annual value (AAV) of $13MM at around the same point in his career that Simmons is in now. While Hargrave’s best season wasn’t quite what Simmons’ is, Hargrave had put together two consecutively strong seasons that led to a bit of a shorter extension but still rewarded his talent.
Heyward had a few more impressive seasons than Simmons when he signed his four-year deal with an AAV of $16.4MM. The reason why Heyward is still comparable despite his superior output is that he was 31-years-old when he signed his contract. His advanced age likely caused a slight drop in his overall value.
Allen may be the best comparison for Simmons’ current situation. 11 months ago, Allen signed a four-year extension with an AAV of $18MM. Allen was 26-years-old when he signed the deal and had two strong seasons with very similar statistics to Simmons’ best year.
With the combination of Simmons’ production and the fact that he’ll turn only 25 next month, an attempt can be made to try and estimate what an extension for him at this point might look like. Considering that the Titans would probably like to hold on to Simmons and that NFL salaries are constantly inflating, a reasonable extension would look something like a four-year, $76MM contract. More generally, expect a three- or four-year deal with an AAV of $18-19.5MM.
Now a new deal is not immediately necessary. Simmons is heading into his fourth year in the league and, as he was a first-round pick, the Titans had a fifth-year option on his rookie-contract which they exercised back in April. Still, the Titans would like to secure Simmons long-term and Simmons would like to cash in on his best season to date, as he’s only set to make $2.2MM on his base salary this year.
Simmons doesn’t have an agent, but instead refers to a “team” meant to deal with his contract. “I’m not talking to (the Titans) about my contract. I have a team in place that, if it is my contract, they’re going to talk to whoever upstairs,” Simmons told McCormick about the negotiation situation. While his contract “team” handles his potential extension, Simmons will be focused on his on-the-field team.
“My job is to be a leader, be a player and not just on the field but in the weight room, the locker room, or whatever it may be,” Simmons pronounced. “I’m on the plan and I’m sticking with it, and I’ll see you guys in camp.”
Jeffery Simmons is attending Titans mandatory minicamp, but he’s not participating in any drills. While the player is clearly staging a “hold-in,” neither Simmons nor the Titans coaching staff will attribute his on-field absence to contract issues.
The Titans picked up the former first-round pick’s fifth-year option, so Simmons still has two years remaining on his rookie pact. He’ll earn a base salary of $2.22MM this upcoming season before getting that fifth-year jump, which is at $10.75MM. Curiously, Simmons doesn’t have an agent; instead, he has a “team” that deals with his contract.
“I’m not talking to them about my contract. I have a team in place that, if it is my contract, they’re going to talk to whoever upstairs,” Simmons said (via Terry McCormick of TitansInsider.com). “Vrabs doesn’t handle contracts. My job is to be a leader, be a player and not just on the field but in the weight room, the lockerroom, or whatever it may be. I’m on the plan and I’m sticking with it, and I’ll see you guys in camp.”
While Simmons could be hinting that his team is negotiating a new contract with the organization, Mike Vrabel also said the defensive lineman’s absence doesn’t have anything to do with contracts. Rather, Simmons is “following the plan laid out by the team” that would have him ready for training camp, per McCormick.
The 2019 first-round pick had a breakout season in 2021. After collecting only five sacks through his first 24 games, Simmons finished the 2022 campaign with 8.5 sacks. He added 54 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and 16 QB hits.
Monday marked the deadline for NFL clubs to officially pick up their options on 2019 first-rounders. Fifth-year option seasons are no longer just guaranteed for injury — they’re now fully guaranteed, which makes these decisions a little tougher for teams.
Nineteen players had their options exercised, a tick up from 14 last year. Here’s the full rundown:
Another fifth-year option is being picked up on a productive 2019 draftee. The Titans announced on Wednesday that they have exercised the option on defensive linemen Jeffery Simmons.
Despite being drafted 19th overall, Simmons was only the fifth interior d-linemen off the board in his draft class. Beside the strength of a position group which also included Quinnen Williamsand Ed Oliver, part of the reason he slid past the top half of the first round was a torn ACL he suffered in the lead-up to the draft. He was still able to play in nine games during his rookie campaign, though.
After a step up in production in 2020, the Mississippi State product showcased his pass-rushing potential this past season. He registered a career-high 8.5 sacks, adding 12 tackles for loss and 25 total pressures. Along with edge rusher Harold Landry, the 24-year-old played a leading role in the team’s resurgent pass rush, which finished top-10 in sacks in 2021. He earned his first career Pro Bowl as a result of his play.
As is the case with other players who have had their options picked up, this move comes as no surprise. As a member of Tier 2 with respect to the valuation of the guaranteed fifth-year contract, Simmons will earn just over $14.7MM. With that said, NFL Network’s Cameron Wolfe reports (on Twitter) that he is a player the Titans “have plans to give a lucrative long-term extension [to] down the line”. For at least the near future, he will remain in place with Tennessee.
The Titans are steadily seeing key players return to action after the team’s coronavirus outbreak. Top defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons is now back on Tennessee’s active roster after testing positive for COVID-19. This move follows the Titans’ activations of DaQuan Jones, Kristian Fulton and Adam Humphries.
Simmons landed on the Titans’ COVID list Oct. 3 but is now on track to play in Week 6. He will have missed only one game, with the Titans’ scheduled Week 4 contest against the Steelers having been converted to a bye week after the team’s issues with the virus.
Tennessee selected Simmons in the 2019 first round and saw the Mississippi State product bounce back quickly despite tearing his ACL before the ’19 draft. Likely a top-10 pick prior to the injury, Simmons has flashed as an interior defender in his limited time as a pro. In his most recent game, Simmons registered three QB hits and recorded a sack.
However, the Titans will be without one of their backup running backs for at least three weeks. They placed Darrynton Evans on IR to make room for Simmons’ return to the 53-man roster. A hamstring injury will sideline Evans, a rookie third-rounder out of Appalachian State. Drafted after the Titans cut Dion Lewis, Evans has just five carries this season. Jeremy McNichols resides as the only other back on Tennessee’s active roster, making it likely the team will make a move to add another player at this spot by Saturday’s transaction deadline.
The Titans have placed one of their starters on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons landed on the list, joining at least eight of his teammates.
While players do not have to test positive for the coronavirus to be moved to the COVID list, the Titans — as of Saturday morning — have seen nine players test positive thus far amid the NFL’s first outbreak. Simmons could well be the unnamed ninth player, or the 2019 first-round pick could be a 10th.
One of the Titans’ top defenders, Simmons has played well thus far this season. The Titans landed him at No. 19 overall in 2019 because of the ACL tear he suffered prior to the draft. After trading Jurrell Casey to the Broncos, the Titans have Simmons entrenched as their top D-line disruptor.
Tennessee’s game against Pittsburgh has been moved to Week 7, with the Steelers’ first 2020 Ravens matchup being switched to Week 8. While the NFL expanded practice squads from 12 to 16 players because of the coronavirus pandemic, it is safe to say the Titans’ Week 5 game against the Bills is in doubt.
The NFL will not fine Titans defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons for conduct during Tennessee’s 28-12 victory in the divisional playoff round, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN. After the contest, Ravens offensive guard Marshal Yanda accused Simmons of spitting on him during the contest. Per Hensley, the NFL found no evidence to substantiate those claims.
For what it’s worth, Simmons did not deny spitting on Yanda when he was asked about it on Wednesday. Had the NFL prooved that Simmons had indeed spit in his opponent’s face, he would have been subject to an unsportsmanlike conduct fine of $14,037.
A few other players were unable to avoid hits to their checkbooks:
Chiefs offensive tackle Eric Fisher went viral online after he celebrated by pouring beer over himself during Kansas City’s divisional round victory over the Texans. While the NFL shared Fisher’s celebration on its official Twitter account, it appears the NFL’s marketers and executors of the codes of conduct are not on the same page. Fisher was fined $14,037 by the league on Saturday, when the league announced this week’s round of fines, according to Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk.
Fisher was not the lone Chiefs player to receive a fine for a celebration, running back Damien Williams received a $10,527 fine for taunting, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com. After he scored his third touchdown in last week’s game, he placed the ball directly in front of a Texan defensive lineman, which cost the team a fifteen-yard penalty and now will cost Williams more than ten thousand dollars.
Incredibly, Jeffery Simmons could make his NFL debut as soon as this weekend. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the first-rounder has been activated from the reserve/non-football injury list.
The Mississippi State-developed interior defender was viewed as a potential top-10 pick before suffering a torn ACL during pre-draft training. The Titans still made the lineman the 19th-overall pick with the understanding that he’d likely sit out his entire rookie campaign. That apparently won’t be the case; Rapoport notes that while the team will naturally be cautious with their investment, Simmons clearly proved in practice that he was ready to play.
Players have returned from ACL tears in playoff games in time for Week 1 of the following season, so a Simmons debut at some point over the next few weeks seems likely. That may also depend on Tennessee’s playoff prospects, which do not look especially promising after Sunday’s shutout loss.
Simmons registered 32.5 tackles for loss in three seasons at Mississippi State. The Titans are hoping he brings that pass-rushing prowess to the NFL.
The Titans will see their first-round pick in practice for the first time soon. Jeffery Simmons will practice with the team this week, the Titans announced on their website.
Residing on the Titans’ NFI list, the rookie defensive lineman has been recovering from the ACL tear he suffered in February. NFI players can begin practicing with their teams after Week 6 while remaining off teams’ 53-man rosters.
Simmons’ debut would seem a ways away, given this injury’s timetable, but it’s nonetheless promising for the Titans to see him in on-field workouts. He traveled with the Titans to Denver this past weekend. Players have returned from ACL tears in playoff games in time for Week 1 of the following season, so a Simmons debut in the second half of this season would not be out of the question. That may also depend on Tennessee’s playoff prospects, which do not look especially promising after Sunday’s shutout loss.
The Titans will understandably want to be cautious with such a high-priority investment, so a full redshirt season — which was rumored in the offseason — should still be considered in play.
The Mississippi State-developed interior defender was viewed a potential top-10 pick before the injury and still went off the board 19th in a stacked class of defensive linemen. He registered 32.5 tackles for loss in three seasons.