Teair Tart

AFC North Notes: Burrow, Browns, Ravens

The Bengals have grown accustomed to Joe Burrow missing considerable practice time. ACL rehab (2021), an appendectomy (2022) and this summer’s calf strain have kept the star quarterback off the field during extended portions of training camp. More of the same could be coming in 2024. Burrow is on the shelf for the season’s remainder due to a wrist injury, one the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Kelsey Conway notes is a tear in the scapholunate ligament. This injury will call for a four- to six-month recovery timetable.

Burrow going down in mid-November will put his availability for the team’s offseason program up in the air. It has not yet been determined if Burrow will throw during OTAs or minicamp, per Conway, who adds the injury damaged a ligament in the middle of his right wrist. Burrow underwent surgery on Nov. 27 in Pennsylvania. Given Burrow’s history of offseason setbacks, it would not surprise to see the Bengals keep the NFL’s highest-paid player on the shelf until training camp.

While Zac Taylor will be back for a sixth season as head coach, the next Bengals offseason program could feature a new offensive coordinator given the NFL’s demand for offense-oriented coaches and fifth-year OC Brian Callahan‘s role in Jake Browning’s early work replacing Burrow. Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • The Ravens already came to terms on an extension with Broderick Washington, but ascending defensive lineman Justin Madubuike is also believed to be in the team’s plans. Baltimore has an extensive history letting front-seven players walk in free agency and pocketing compensatory picks. Matt Judon, C.J. Mosley and Pernell McPhee are among the more recent examples here, but The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec offers that the fourth-year D-lineman is playing too well for the team to consider letting him go (subscription required). With the team looking for an interior rush presence for a while, Zrebiec points to a new deal or a franchise tag for the former third-round pick. Madubuike’s team-leading 12 sacks have bolstered a Ravens pass rush that again entered a season with questions. The Ravens, who did tag Judon before letting him walk a year later, would need to pony up at least $19.5MM to tag Madubuike.
  • On the subject of interior D-linemen, two of the Ravens’ AFC North rivals attempted to claim fourth-year DT Teair Tart this week. The Bengals and Browns submitted unsuccessful claims for the veteran nose tackle, ESPN.com’s Field Yates tweets. The Texans claimed Tart, who follows Derek Barnett as a Houston D-lineman claim this season. Although the Texans are 8-6, the Bengals are positioned in the playoffs presently due to tiebreakers. That worked in Houston’s favor on the wire.
  • A recent report pegged Ogbo Okoronkwo as being out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, but the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot notes the Browns edge rusher has sought a second opinion and is not yet certain to be shut down. The Browns have not yet placed Okoronkwo on IR, pointing to a potential re-emergence. Although this season has featured three notable comebacks from pectoral tears (Avonte Maddox, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, DaQuan Jones), Okoronkwo suffering a tear, which Cabot indicates he has, would likely shut him down due to the timing of the injury. Maddox and Gardner-Johnson rehabbed from Week 2 maladies; Jones suffered his injury in Week 5. Okoronkwo avoiding a season-ending injury would obviously boost the Browns, who have seen a number of key performers go down with major injuries this year.

Texans Claim DT Teair Tart Off Waivers

Teair Tart saw his time with the Titans come to an end last week, but he will remain in the AFC South. The veteran defensive tackle has been claimed off waivers by the Texans, per the transactions wire.

Tart was playing on a $4.3MM RFA tender this season, having established himself as a key member of Tennessee’s defensive interior. Tension with the team resulted in his dismissal, however, leaving teams around the league free to add him by putting in a claim. Houston sat around the middle of the waiver priority with a record of 8-6, meaning many other clubs elected to pass on him.

Tart, 26, joined the Titans as a UDFA and he has played all 45 of his career games with the franchise. Due to reach free agency this offseason, though, he will now have the opportunity to boost his stock late in 2023. Tennessee – a team which, in the absence of Tart and fellow D-lineman Jeffery Simmons – allowed 148 yards on the ground yesterday in an overtime loss to Houston. That game eliminated the Titans from playoff contention, but the Texans are still in the mix for both the AFC South title and a wild-card berth.

Houston has posted middling numbers in both total and scoring defense so far this season, but the unit has held up well against the run. The Texans have allowed an average of 93.5 yards per game on the ground, which ranks sixth in the NFL. Houston held Derrick Henry and the Titans to just 66 rushing yards yesterday, showcasing the team’s strength up front without Tart in the lineup. His addition will provide a starting-caliber option up front, though.

The Florida International alum has posted 21 tackles and one sack this season, one in which he has missed time due to injuries. Tart generated a strong PFF evaluation last year en route to earning a raise through the RFA tender, but his 2023 grade (57.6) falls in line with his other NFL campaigns. Improving on that figure late in the season could help his market in the offseason while also boosting the Texans’ defensive front.

Titans Waive DL Teair Tart

DECEMBER 16: The move is now official, per a team announcement. Tart will hit the waiver wire instead of seeing his RFA contract expire at the end of the season. It will be interesting to see how much interest is shown in him (either via teams putting in a claim or pursing him as a free agent). To fill Tart’s spot, Tennessee promoted wideout Mason Kinsey to the 53-man roster. The latter has played five games across his three seasons in the NFL, all with the Titans.

DECEMBER 15: Tension between the Titans and Teair Tart will result in an unceremonious exit. The veteran defensive lineman has been ruled out for Week 15 due to personal (rather than injury-related) reasons.

Veteran Titans beat writer Paul Kuharsky first reported Tennessee was set to move on from Tart after “season-long issues reached a breaking point.” Indeed, ESPN’s Turron Davenport confirms Tart has played his last game with the franchise. The 26-year-old will now head to waivers in a move which creates no dead money charge.

Tart joined the Titans as a UDFA in 2020, and he played sparingly during his rookie season. Since then, however, he has established himself as a key member of Tennessee’s defensive line rotation. The 26-year-old logged a snap share of 47% in the 2021 and ’22 seasons. His level of play in the latter campaign earned him a second-round RFA tender, and signing it locked him into a $4.3MM salary.

After Tart set new career highs in several categories last year, expectations were high for a follow-up and a resultant boost in free agent value. As Kuharsky notes, however, the Florida International alum’s conditioning and effort level have been a sore spot during the campaign. With his contract status looming over his immediate future, Tart has racked up 21 tackles (including eight for a loss) along with one sack while seeing an identical snap share to the past two seasons. Those figures have resulted in a PFF grade of 57.6, a stark regression from his career-best evaluation in 2022.

While the Titans’ run defense suffered in the games Tart missed, his absence was not as impactful as expected given his previous performances. Between that fact, and the team’s status as presumed sellers ahead of the trade deadline, Tart was floated as a trade candidate. No takers emerged on that front, but interested parties can now add him by putting in a claim. If he passes through waivers, Tart will be a free agent.

Today’s news leaves Tennessee without both Tart and All-Pro Jeffery Simmons along the defensive interior; the latter is set to miss a second straight game due to injury. Kyle Peko, meanwhile, is out for the season. Especially given the decision to move on from Tart, yesterday’s additions of Quinton Bohanna and Keondre Coburn to provide healthy bodies along the D-line make sense.

While the latter two are set to make their Titans debuts this week, Tart will turn his attention to his next chapter. A rebound in terms of performance with his next team, should he latch onto an active roster to close out the year, will set him up for free agency for the first time in his career.

Titans Listening To Offers On Contract-Year Players; Ravens Still In On Derrick Henry?

The Titans’ chances of trading Derrick Henry took a major hit today. As ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets, the deadline passed for the running back to restructure his contract ahead of tomorrow’s trade deadline. As a result, any suitor would have to take on the remaining $5.5MM on Henry’s deal, leading one source to tell Schefter that they don’t “think a trade’s going to happen.”

[RELATED: Latest On Titans, Derrick Henry]

While Tennessee’s inability to reduce Henry’s cap hit will surely impact their ability to trade the star running back, Tony Pauline of Sportskeeda.com writes that teams remain in the hunt, including a pair of previously-reported suitors. Per Pauline, the Ravens are still the “leaders in the clubhouse,” while the Cowboys linger as a “dark horse.”

While both Baltimore and Dallas would be happy to add Henry to their running back corps, compensation remains a main sticking point, according to Pauline. The reporter believes the Titans couldn’t do better than a fourth-round pick, and Pauline opines that Tennessee’s ownership would never approve such a deal. So, if there’s any hope that Henry gets traded before tomorrow’s deadline, it’s going to require one of the Titans or a potential suitor to blink.

While much of the attention in Tennessee has been focused on Henry, there are a handful of additional trade candidates on the Titans roster. Albert Breer of SI.com says defensive linemen Teair Tart and Denico Autry are “the more likely candidates to be moved” before tomorrow’s deadline, with the reporter also noting the smoke surrounding DeAndre Hopkins.

Tart has spent his entire four-year career in Tennessee, going from UDFA to full-time starter. After starting all 16 of his appearances in 2022 , he’s started four of his five games this year, collecting 11 tackles, three tackles for loss, and three QB hits. Autry signed a three-year, $21.5MM deal with the Titans in 2021 and has started 25 of his 36 appearances for the organization, including six starts this season.

Titans DT Teair Tart Signs RFA Tender

The Titans will have one of their starting defenders in place in time for the start of minicamp today. Defensive tackle Teair Tart has signed his restricted free agent tender, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link).

Tennessee tendered him at the second-round level in March, leaving open the possibility of an offer sheet. As expected, nothing emerged on that front, though, and Tart will remain in the fold for the 2023 season. He will earn $4.3MM this year, but a continuation of his play to date could set himself up for more in the future.

The former UDFA joined the Titans in 2020, and he was used in a rotational capacity right away with a 31% snap share on defense. He took on starting duties the following season, seeing an uptick in usage along the way. His level of play in his second campaign increased expectations for he and the team heading into 2023, and Tart did not disappoint.

The 26-year-old was a full-time starter last season, and he set new career-highs across the board. Tart racked up 34 tackles, 1.5 sacks, five tackles for loss, 12 QB pressures, one fumble recovery, one interception and six pass deflections. Those totals helped result in a new personal mark in terms of PFF evaluation, as well; the Florida International alum earned an overall grade of 73.1, which ranked 22nd among all DTs in the NFL.

Tart is in line to remain a first-teamer alongside Pro Bowler Jeffery Simmons on the interior of the Titans’ defensive line. That unit helped Tennessee rank first in the league in run defense last season, and the team has responded by making only a minor depth addition (in the form of Jaleel Johnson) so far in free agency. Tart will look to replicate his success of the past two seasons, knowing a strong performance this season could yield another signficant jump in compensation in 2024.

Titans Place Second-Round Tenders On OL Aaron Brewer, DT Teair Tart

The Titans made a handful of decisions on impending restricted free agents today. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reports (via Twitter) that the Titans are placing a second-round tender on restricted free agent offensive lineman Aaron Brewer, while Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports reports (via Twitter) that the Titans are placing a second-round tender on restricted FA defensive tackle Teair Tart.

Brewer joined the Titans as a 2020 undrafted free agent out of Texas State. and he started six games through his first two seasons in the NFL. He started all 17 games this past season and, assuming he doesn’t get an offer in RFA, will be sticking around the Titans starting lineup in 2023, either at the same position or as a fill-in at center for Ben Jones.

Tart also joined the Titans as an undrafted FA in 2020. He started 10 of his 11 games during the 2021 season and started all 16 of his appearances in 2021, finishing with 34 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Another team could sign either player to an offer sheet but would be required to send a second-round pick to Tennessee if the Titans don’t match. If the players don’t receive an offer sheet, they’ll earn $4.3MM in 2023.

Meanwhile, two impending Titans RFAs who won’t receive tenders are wide receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (per Terry McCormick of Titans Insider) and tight end Cody Hollister (per McCormick on Twitter). Westbrook-Ikhine started 20 of his 33 appearances over the past two years, hauling in 63 receptions for 873 yards and seven touchdowns. Hollister has had a minor role on offense over the past four years, collecting 10 receptions for 112 yards.

Latest On Titans’ DL Competition

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. 

Terry McCormick of TitansInsider.com notes that Jeffery Simmons is set to once again anchor the team’s d-line. He enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2021 with 8.5 sacks, earning him a Pro Bowl nod and Second-Team All-Pro honors. The Mississippi State product will be 25 this season, making him a prime candidate for the team to make a long-term commitment to sometime in the near future.

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 Tart and Naquan Jones are 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 Hand and Kevin Strong, and free agent signee DeMarcus Walker.

One interesting name in this positional competition is Larrell MurchisonA 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.

Minor NFL Transactions: 3/9/22

We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here:

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

Jacksonville Jaguars

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

New York Jets

San Francisco 49ers

Tennessee Titans

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/11/20

Here are Friday’s minor moves:

Carolina Panthers

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

New York Giants

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

Tennessee Titans