Titans Rumors

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.

2023 NFL Cap Space, By Team

The start of June has served as a key NFL financial period for decades. While teams no longer have to wait until after June 1 to make that cost-splitting cut designation, teams pick up the savings from those transactions today. With a handful of teams making post-June 1 cuts this year, here is how each team’s cap space (courtesy of OverTheCap) looks as of Friday:

  1. Chicago Bears: $32.58MM
  2. Carolina Panthers: $27.25MM
  3. Arizona Cardinals: $26.68MM
  4. New York Jets: $24.79MM
  5. Detroit Lions: $23.72MM
  6. Indianapolis Colts: $23.39MM
  7. Dallas Cowboys: $20.48MM
  8. Houston Texans: $16.81MM
  9. Green Bay Packers: $16.57MM
  10. Pittsburgh Steelers: $15.73MM
  11. Cincinnati Bengals: $14.92MM
  12. New Orleans Saints: $14.27MM
  13. New England Patriots: $14.12MM
  14. Miami Dolphins: $13.9MM
  15. Cleveland Browns: $13.86MM
  16. Philadelphia Eagles: $13.85MM
  17. Los Angeles Chargers: $12.61MM
  18. Jacksonville Jaguars: $12MM
  19. Washington Commanders: $11.57MM
  20. Baltimore Ravens: $11.54MM
  21. San Francisco 49ers: $10.72MM
  22. Atlanta Falcons: $10.7MM
  23. Denver Broncos: $10.13MM
  24. Minnesota Vikings: $9.75MM
  25. Tennessee Titans: $7.99MM
  26. Seattle Seahawks: $7.94MM
  27. New York Giants: $3.82MM
  28. Las Vegas Raiders: $3.37MM
  29. Los Angeles Rams: $1.49MM
  30. Buffalo Bills: $1.4MM
  31. Kansas City Chiefs: $653K
  32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $402K

The Dolphins gained the most from a post-June 1 cut (Byron Jones) this year, creating $13.6MM in cap space from a deal that will spread out the cornerback’s dead money through 2024. But the Browns (John Johnson, Jadeveon Clowney) and Cowboys (Ezekiel Elliott) created more than $10MM in space as well.

The Jets’ number is a bit deceiving. They are still working on a restructure with Aaron Rodgers, as the trade acquisition’s cap number — after a Packers restructure — sits at just $1.22MM. In 2024, that number skyrockets to $107.6MM. Rodgers’ cap hit will almost definitely will climb before Week 1, so viewing the Jets along with the other teams north of $20MM in space is not entirely accurate.

Minnesota is moving closer to separating from its $12.6MM-per-year Dalvin Cook contract. The team already created some space by trading Za’Darius Smith to the Browns. Cleveland, which is one of the teams connected to DeAndre Hopkins, added Smith and did so with help from its Deshaun Watson restructure. Watson was set to count $54.9MM against the Browns’ 2023 cap. That number is down to $19.1MM, though the Browns’ restructure both ballooned Watson’s mid-2020s cap figures to $63.9MM — which would shatter the NFL record — and added a 2027 void year.

Tampa Bay and Los Angeles sit atop the league in dead money, with the Bucs — largely from their April 2022 Tom Brady restructure — checking in at $75.3MM here. That total comprises nearly 33% of the Bucs’ 2023 cap sheet. The Rams, at more than $74MM, are not far behind. Despite the Bills and Chiefs — the teams most frequently tied to Hopkins — joining the Bucs and Rams near the bottom of the league in cap space, both AFC contenders also sit in the bottom five in dead money.

P Brett Kern Announces Retirement

One of this era’s most experienced punters, Brett Kern will wrap his career after 15 seasons. The former Broncos, Titans and Eagles specialist announced Thursday he is retiring.

Best known for his Tennessee tenure, Kern punted in 197 games with the AFC South team. Although Oilers legends Bruce Matthews and Elvin Bethea have that number beat for the franchise, Kern has logged the most games — by a considerable margin — during the organization’s Tennessee period. Punters occupy the top two spots on the Tennessee section of that list, with Kern surpassing the player he replaced (Craig Hentrich).

Kern, 37, finished his 13-year Titans career with three Pro Bowl nods and a first-team All-Pro honor. The Titans gave promising UDFA Ryan Stonehouse the job out of training camp last year, and while Kern spent most of the season away from the game, he finished his career by helping the Eagles to Super Bowl LVII. Kern replaced an injured Arryn Siposs in December for the Eagles, punting in six games. Though, Siposs’ recovery from a December injury ended up booting Kern off Philly’s active roster just ahead of Super Bowl Sunday.

The Titans acquired Kern in 2009, claiming him a day after the Broncos waived him in-season. Kern signed three Titans extensions, including two deals that paid him at least $3MM per season. The most recent — a $12.65MM deal — came during the 2019 offseason. Despite playing the NFL’s second-lowest-paid regular position (ahead of long snapper), Kern earned more than $29MM during his career.

Kern led the NFL with 49.7 yards per punt in 2017 and finished four other seasons north of 47 years per boot. Following his three-year Pro Bowl run, Kern placed a career-high 59.5% of his punts inside the 20-yard line in 2020. He placed a career-high 39 punts inside the 20 in 2018.

Traded NFL Draft Picks For 2024

As teams regroup on potential trade talks, 2024 draft picks represent the top non-player assets available. Although the usual run of draft-weekend trades featured teams moving up and down the 2023 board, a high number of 2024 picks have changed hands. The Cardinals resided at the center of such movement, but many other teams have already made changes to their 2024 draft arsenals. Three first-rounders have already been traded, and a fourth — barring an Aaron Rodgers injury — will be expected to transfer.

Here are the 2024 picks to have changed hands thus far:

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

  • Lions obtained Vikings‘ pick in 2022 deadline deal that sent T.J. Hockenson to Minnesota
  • As part of Payton trade, Broncos collected Saints‘ third
  • As part of Anderson trade, Cardinals acquired Texans’ 2024 third
  • Cardinals picked up Titans‘ 2024 third in deal that allowed Tennessee to draft Will Levis at No. 33
  • Seahawks acquired third from Broncos in exchange for No. 83 overall pick (CB Riley Moss)
    • It is not yet known if Seattle will add Denver or New Orleans’ 2024 third
  • Texans landed third from Eagles in trade for No. 105 (CB Kelee Ringo)

Round 4

Round 5

Round 6

Round 7

Titans Sign Round 1 OL Peter Skoronski

The Titans now have their top 2023 draft choice under contract. No. 11 overall pick Peter Skoronski signed his four-year rookie pact (feat. the fifth-year option) Tuesday.

Skoronski is the 18th first-round pick from this year’s class to sign. The Titans will can keep the Northwestern product under contract through 2027 by extending it via the option in May 2026, but we are obviously a ways away from that decision. For now, the Titans will need to determine where Skoronski will play.

Viewed by most NFL evaluators as a guard, Skoronski nevertheless went off the board ahead of tackle Broderick Jones. The Bears passed on the Chicago-area product by taking Tennessee tackle Darnell Wright at No. 10, however. Skoronski suited up as a Northwestern tackle but drew pre-draft scrutiny due to his arm length. Ex-Wildcats teammate Rashawn Slater fell victim to criticism that his 33-inch arms were too short for him to be a successful NFL tackle. Lo and behold, Skoronski’s arm length is reportedly almost an inch shorter.

Still, Skoronski only played tackle at Northwestern, starting all three seasons before declaring for the draft after his junior year. He earned first-team All-Big Ten acclaim as a sophomore and junior, after landing on the conference’s second team in 2020. While Skoronski and Slater were technically teammates, Slater opting out of the 2020 season provided a clear runway for Skoronski to become the top Wildcats tackle.

The Titans’ offseason moves would point to Skoronski playing guard. They gave ex-Eagles first-rounder-turned-backup Andre Dillard a three-year, $29MM deal. Dillard stands to team with 2022 right tackle starter Nicholas Petit-Frere. The Titans signed ex-49ers guard Daniel Brunskill and retained 2022 guard starter Aaron Brewer, but the latter is on track to replace Ben Jones at center. This opens the door for Skoronski to work opposite Brunskill at guard.

The Titans have been using Peter Skoronski — the grandson of 1960s Packers left tackle Bob Skoronskiat both guard and tackle early in his offseason run. Where he lines up in training camp will obviously be a better indicator of the organization’s plans. Skoronski’s agreement leaves only second-rounder Will Levis as the only unsigned Titans draftee.

Titans, DT Jaleel Johnson Agree To Deal

The Titans have made a depth addition to their defensive front. Tennessee has agreed to a deal with veteran defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson, per KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson (Twitter link).

The 28-year-old spent the first four years of his career with the Vikings, seeing a larger workload with each passing season. His best year in the pass rushing department came in 2019, when he registered 3.5 sacks in a rotational role. That earned him added playing time the following year, one in which he started all 16 games and logged a snap share of 61%.

Johnson has bounced around the league since then, however. He signed with the Texans in 2021, the most recent campaign in which he remained with one franchise for the full season. The former fourth-rounder made 12 appearances in Houston, but no starts, while seeing the field for 40% of defensive snaps. He followed that up by signing with the Saints last April; despite the being his second contract with New Orleans, though, he never saw any game time with them.

The Iowa alum split his time between the Falcons and Texans in 2022, making 15 tackles in nine combined appearances. Johnson will look to earn a more consistent workload in Tennessee, and in doing so set himself up for another contract next offseason while helping his new team remain dominant in its run defense.

The Titans led the league in yards allowed per game on the ground in 2022 (76.8). Much of that success came from their defensive front, a unit which is led by two-time Pro Bowler Jeffery Simmons. The 6-3, 316-pound Johnson will seek a role allowing him to see time alongside Simmons as a nose tackle. Tennessee’s other options in that capacity include the likes of Teair Tart, Naquan Jones and Tyler Shelvin. Johnson will aim to carve out at least some rotational playing time amongst them on what should once again be a strong Titans D-line.

Each NFL Franchise’s Richest QB Contract

The quarterback market has moved again this offseason. A year after Aaron Rodgers raised the average annual value bar past $50MM, Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson did so on long-term extensions. Overall, four teams have authorized the most lucrative QB deal in their respective histories this offseason. Two more — the Bengals and Chargers — are in talks about record-setting extensions as well.

On that note, here is the richest quarterback contract each team has authorized. Although teams like the Jets and Lions have acquired big-ticket contracts via trade, only teams’ extensions or free agency agreements will qualify here.

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

  • Jay Cutler, January 2014. Seven years, $126.7MM. $38MM fully guaranteed

Cincinnati Bengals

  • Carson Palmer, December 2005. Six years, $97MM. $30.8MM fully guaranteed

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

In trading this contract to the Jets in April, the Packers restructured the deal. Rodgers’ exit will still tag the Pack with $40.3MM in 2023 dead money.

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Carr’s second Raiders deal — agreed to in April 2022 — was worth $40.5MM per year. The full guarantee, thanks to the February escape hatch the team built into the contract, checked in lower than Carr’s initial Raiders extension.

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

Cousins’ 2020 extension checked in with a higher AAV ($33MM) but did not approach his initial Minnesota pact for guarantees.

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

  • Chad Pennington, September 2004. Seven years, $64MM. $23MM guaranteed.

The Jets have signed three quarterbacks to deals involving more guaranteed money, but each of those contracts — for Mark Sanchez (2009), Sam Darnold (2018) and Zach Wilson (2021) — was a rookie pact.

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Commanders

Titans Satisfied With WR Group?

In a recent interview, newly appointed Titans offensive coordinator Tim Kelly responded in the affirmative when asked if the team currently had enough to work with at the wide receiver position, according to Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com. Many have regarded the team’s wide receiving corps as a weakness, but while not a guarantee that the team will stand pat at the position, Kelly seems to be satisfied with what he currently has to work with.

After releasing last season’s leading receiver, Robert Woods, Tennessee returns last year’s first-round pick Treylon Burks (444 receiving yards in 2022), Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (397), Kyle Philips (78), Racey McMath (40), Mason Kinsey (3), and Reggie Roberson (0). The team also added former Ravens and Texans wideout Chris Moore in free agency back in April after a bit of a breakout season in Houston that saw him reach career highs in starts (7), catches (48), and receiving yards (548).

The team signed five rookie pass catchers, as well. The Titans drafted Tennessee-Martin wide receiver Colton Dowell in the seventh-round and added Oregon State’s Tre’Shaun Harrison, Georgia’s Kearis Jackson, Maryland’s Jacob Copeland, and Baylor’s Gavin Holmes in undrafted free agency after the draft. Dowell earned his draft slot after racking up over 1,000 receiving yards for the Skyhawks in 2022. Harrison posted career highs in receptions (52), receiving yards (604), and touchdowns (4) last year in his third season with the Beavers after transferring from Florida State. Copeland’s best season came when he was in Gainesville and caught 41 balls for 642 yards and four touchdowns. He failed to improve upon that performance in a grad transfer season with the Terrapins. Jackson never quite lived up to the billing of his high recruiting ranking. His strongest season came in 2020 when he caught 36 passes for 514 yards and three touchdowns. Holmes was a bit of a deep ball threat for the Bears last year, catching 27 balls for 521 yards and four touchdowns.

It’s fair to say that the room lacks established star power and experience. Moore, Burks, and Westbrook-Ikhine are the obvious leaders of the group with no changes moving forward. It helps to return star running back Derrick Henry as the focus of the offense and tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo, who finished second on the team last season with 450 receiving yards. Otherwise, it’s not easy to be as confident as Kelly in what quarterback Ryan Tannehill has to work with in 2023.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/25/23

One mid-round draft pick signing to pass along:

Tennessee Titans

Spears had a breakout 2022 campaign at Tulane, finishing with 1,837 yards from scrimmage and 21 touchdowns. That performance led to him being selected by the Titans in the third round of the draft, and he should get some reps as a rookie behind Derrick Henry. Spears will compete with Hassan Haskins for that RB2 spot on the depth chart.

AFC Notes: Raiders, Bills, Titans, Steelers

Last year, the Raiders offensive line was viewed as a major weakness, forcing Las Vegas to shuffle the depth chart until they found a workable solution. Oddly enough, though, by the end of the season, the team found a reliable starting five and some dependable reserves that didn’t blow anybody away but routinely got the job done. With the position no longer a weakness, Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal posits that the Raiders may not have much urgency in addressing the position before next season.

Returning a likely starting five of Kolton Miller at left tackle, Dylan Parham at left guard, Andre James at center, Alex Bars at right guard, and Jermaine Eluemunor at right tackle, the Raiders don’t necessarily have any holes in the offensive line. Bonsignore asserts that the team still may look for potential upgrades from younger reserve linemen pushing for playing time or potential outside additions, if they present themselves, but right now, the team’s roster may be set after the recent additions of free agent Greg Van Roten and undrafted rookies McClendon Curtis and Dalton Wagner.

Here are a few other rumors from around the AFC:

  • The Bills made a number of moves within their scouting department this offseason. Formerly the team’s pro personnel director, Malik Boyd has been named senior personnel advisor in Buffalo. The former Vikings defensive back and veteran scout with personnel experience for the Colts and Cardinals will work as an executive scout in both pro and college mediums. Additionally, Chris Marrow and Curtis Rukavina have both been named co-directors of pro scouting. The two remain entwined after joining the team as pro scouts in 2017 and both working as assistant directors of pro scouting until their recent promotions.
  • With a new general manager in Ran Carthon, the Titans, too, have begun to make some front office adjustments, according to Neil Stratton of SucceedinFootball.com. Max Curtis has been named as the team’s new player personnel coordinator, being from promoted from dual roles last year as coordinator of football administration and executive assistant to the executive vice president and general manager. Bryce Wasserman will now be the Titans’ director of team strategy after serving last year as staff counsel. Lastly, a football development coordinator last year, John Streicher will now be in the role of director of football administration.
  • Finally, the Steelers have poached a scout from the in-state Eagles, according to Colin Dunlap of 93.7 The Fan, Pittsburgh. After five years as an area scout for Philadelphia, Jim Ward will cross the state to serve a similar role in Pittsburgh.