Titans Rumors

AFC South Notes: Zentner, Texans, Colts

Ryan Stonehouse‘s Week 1 availability for the Titans is in question. The record-setting punter is rehabbing ACL and MCL tears in addition to a broken bone, but he is hoping to recover in time for the start of the season.

If that does not turn out to be the case, the team’s other in-house option would by Ty ZentnerThe former UDFA saw time with both Tennessee and Houston last season, and he made five appearances after Stonehouse’s injury. Zentner averaged 46.5 yards per punt with the Titans, and he remains in place as a developmental practice squad candidate.

The 26-year-old has improved this offseason, team reporter Jim Wyatt writes. He adds, to no surprise, that as a result Tennessee is not likely to add another punter this summer. Zentner is on track to handle punting duties until Stonehouse returns, and his performance in training camp and the preseason will be worth monitoring with respect to if the team changes course and pursues a veteran.

Here are some other notes out of the AFC South:

  • The Texans have made a few changes in the front office, including the hiring of Steve Cargile. The former Patriots exec will hold the titles of senior personnel executive and assistant director of pro scouting, as detailed by KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson. Cargile bounced around the league during his playing career (2004-09) before joining the Patriots’ front office in 2021. It was learned this spring Eliot Wolf would not retain him, but the 42-year-old has not needed to wait long to find a new gig.
  • The aforementioned Wilson piece also notes that DJ Debick will replace Ronnie McGill as Houston’s pro scouting director moving forward. The latter’s contract was not renewed this offseason, paving the way for Debick to take on the role. From 2016-21 the Patriots employed Debick in their scouting department. That time overlapped with Texans GM Nick Caserio‘s New England tenure, and in 2022 Debick was hired as Houston’s assistant pro scouting director. Now, he will lead that department shortly after reuniting with Caserio.
  • The Colts recently announced that Joey Elliott has received a promotion from area scout to assistant pro scouting director. As Neil Stratton of Inside the League notes, Elliott’s tenure in Indianapolis (which began in 2017 and was preceded by a stint with the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks) saw him receive recognition on the 2023 BART list as one of the conference’s top scouts. His performance to date with the Colts has earned him a move up the executive ladder along with added responsibilities in 2024.

Titans Considering Carrying Three QBs?

With the Ryan Tannehill era over in Tennessee, Will Levis is set to take on starting quarterback duties across a full campaign in 2024. The Titans have a pair of signal-callers behind him on the depth chart, but both could end up surviving roster cuts.

Tennessee selected Malik Willis in the third round of the 2022 draft, making him a member of a class which was not well regarded before or after the event. The 25-year-old made three starts as a rookie, but down the stretch it was clear he did not have the trust of Mike Vrabel‘s coaching staff. Last season, Willis made just three appearances and attempted five passes with Tannehill ultimately making way for Levis as QB1.

The Titans, to no surprise, have not re-signed Tannehill (who remains on the open market). The team did, however, bring in an experienced backup option in the form of Mason RudolphThe ex-Steeler inked a one-year deal with a base value of $2.87MM to head to Nashville. Rudolph, 28, will spend training camp competing with Willis for the backup spot.

Regardless of how that battle turns out, though, all three passers could make the team’s initial 53-man roster. Team reporter Jim Wyatt writes the Titans could carry both Rudolph and Willis even if the latter loses out on the QB2 gig. Willis has two years remaining on his rookie contract and keeping him in the fold would allow him to continue developing under new head coach Brian Callahan. On the other hand, the Liberty alum’s underwhelming pro career to date could make him a relatively safe candidate to clear waivers at the end of the summer.

New rules allow teams to use an unlimited number of practice squad elevations for signal-callers to dress on gamedays as an emergency third quarterback. As a result, many NFL roster are expected to include only two passers on the 53-man roster at the start of the season. Plenty is yet to be determined, but the Titans could be on track to serve as an exception in that regard.

K Nick Folk Addresses Decision To Re-Sign With Titans

After four years with the Patriots, Nick Folk was dealt to the Titans last summer. That move left the 39-year-old kicker on the move once again, but he enjoyed a strong debut campaign in Nashville.

Folk converted all but one of his 30 field goal attempts in 2023, and his 96.7% success rate led the NFL. He converted 28 of 30 extra point attempts as well, proving he is still capable of delivering consistent performances despite his age. That led to Tennessee’s decision to retain him via a one-year deal featuring $3.5MM guaranteed in March.

“For me, it’s always been a patient game,” the former sixth-rounder said when reflecting on his decision to re-sign (via team reporter Jim Wyatt). “I kind of understand the game, and I understand the business side of it. I was patient with it, and I knew I wanted to play. I told that to [general manager] Ran [Carthon] at the end of the season, that I wanted to keep playing, that I loved it here. I wanted to come back, and I’m excited to be back.”

Considering his strong play in 2023, Folk likely could have found a number of outside suitors if he preferred to test the market. Instead, his decision to remain in Tennessee should give the team another campaign of stable production at the position – something the Patriots did not enjoy in the field goal department from Chad Ryland, who was drafted to replace Folk.

The latter had struggled with kickoffs during much of his New England tenure, although his touchback percentage (50.8%) and average depth (62.3 yards) on kickoffs from 2023 outpaced his career averages. Entering his 17th NFL campaign, Folk faces understandable questions about his playing future. Another productive season with the Titans – a team which included kicker Brayden Narveson in its UDFA class – would certainly help his chances of landing another opportunity in 2025 if he pursued one, though.

Folk’s range on kicks beyond 50 yards could be a cause for concern, but his accuracy aside from that has remained steady. He has connected on 78 consecutive field goals within 40 yards, the longest such streak in NFL history. Provided he remains consistent from close range, the Titans should once again have a reliable kicking game in 2024.

AFC Staff Rumors: Canada, Steelers, Shaw, Broncos, Chargers, Jaguars, Titans

The Steelers opted for an outside OC hire, adding Arthur Smith, but both halves of their interim setup from last season — Eddie Faulkner and Mike Sullivan — remain with the team. Sullivan drew OC interest elsewhere, after calling the plays for a Mason Rudolph-led offense that ended up in the playoffs, but he is in place as a Steelers senior offensive assistant. Faulkner remains the team’s RBs coach. Smith should be considered likely to include the duo in his game plans, per The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly, who adds ousted OC Matt Canada was not known for a collaborative approach. Canada did not receive input from staffers especially well, Kaboly notes, before becoming the historically rare Steelers assistant fired in-season.

Here is the latest from AFC coaching staffs and front offices:

  • One of the Broncos‘ HC candidates in 2023, David Shaw is now in place to work remotely as a staffer under Sean Payton and George Paton. Shaw has coached with the former (on Ray Rhodes‘ 1997 Eagles staff) and began communicating with the GM more often since the January 2023 interview. Months after the longtime Stanford HC’s interview, SI.com’s Albert Breer notes he expressed an interest to Paton regarding work in NFL personnel. During the time between his Broncos connections, Shaw interviewed for the Chargers and Titans’ HC jobs. The Paton conversations, with likely help from the Stanford ties owners Greg Penner and Condoleezza Rice have, led to the longtime Stanford coach landing with the AFC West franchise.
  • Elsewhere on the Broncos’ staff, InsidetheLeague.com’s Neil Stratton notes Ty Murphy has moved from scouting intern to pro scout. Murphy initially caught on with the team in July 2023.
  • Four years ago, the Chargers were new on the analytics front. They hired Aditya Krishnan to lead that department in February 2020. Early in Jim Harbaugh‘s tenure, the Bolts are moving in a different direction. Krishnan, who held the title of football research and analytics director, is no longer with the team, according to ESPN.com’s Seth Walder. While new regimes shake up staffs, it will be interesting to see how Harbaugh goes about assembling an analytics department in Los Angeles.
  • The Jaguars are also losing an experienced staffer. Brian Squeglia, who worked as an area scout for the past six years and spent eight seasons in Jacksonville, is leaving the team, per Stratton. Squeglia is set to remain in the industry but is not planning to work for another team presently.
  • The Titans added two staffers recently, with Walder indicating they hired Erin Psajdl Davis and Alex Rogers as analysts. Psajdl Davis comes over from the Chiefs, having worked on the business side in Kansas City. She previously held a football-related role in Houston. Rogers interned for the Saints previously.

Latest On Titans’ RG, RT Position Battles

The Titans and new offensive line coach Bill Callahan have quite a few familiar faces to work with in 2024, but there could be some big changes along the offensive line. A couple of position battles have developed in the early days of the offseason, according to Titans senior writer/editor Jim Wyatt.

The team utilized Daniel Brunskill and Dillon Radunz mostly at right guard and right tackle, respectively, last year, but neither player seems to be solid in their job security. Brunskill has lost his starting job before in San Francisco. After earning a starting job partway through his rookie season, Brunskill started two more years for the 49ers. In 2022, Brunskill found himself coming off the bench in favor of then-rookie Spencer Burford. He started 14 games for the Titans last year. Radunz finally earned his opportunity to start at right tackle last year after failing to win the job his first two seasons and being forced to work as a backup guard.

Radunz’s tenure as the starting right tackle may already be coming to an end, though, as Wyatt sees Nicholas Petit-Frere taking back the job in 2024. Petit-Frere started his rookie season at right tackle for the team in 2022, but a combination of a suspension for violating the league’s gambling policy and a stint on injured reserve restricted him to only three games last season. Wyatt predicts that, given a healthy recovery, Petit-Frere will reclaim his starting job and push Radunz back to guard-duty.

Wyatt sees free agent addition Saahdiq Charles as the biggest threat to Brunskill’s job. Despite being limited in how much offensive linemen can do in organized team activities, Charles has reportedly had a very good spring. Charles comes from Washington where he started 10 of 11 game appearances at left guard last year after only starting eight games in his first three years combined. He’s looked the part enough in Tennessee to convince Wyatt that a change could be in effect.

It’s still a competition, though, and Wyatt notes that Charles will have to beat out Brunskill, and potentially Radunz should he get pushed back inside, for the job. He notes that the right tackle position will be a battle, as well, and though Petit-Frere and Radunz will get first looks, Leroy Watson, Jaelyn Duncan, and the newly acquired Geron Christian will all be in the mix, as well.

The rest of the line seems set. Peter Skoronski is reportedly likely to stay inside at left guard, the team drafted Alabama’s JC Latham in the first round to start at left tackle, and they signed Lloyd Cushenberry to start at center. While battles are set to ensue, the expectation is that some combination of two of Charles, Petit-Frere, Radunz, and Brunskill will be alongside them on the right side of the line in 2024.

Giants, Titans In Contact With UFL’s Juwan Manigo

A number of players who took part in the 2024 UFL season have already landed NFL deals. Return specialist Juwan Manigo could be the next to do so.

Manigo has received interest from the Giants, Mauricio Rodriguez and Mike Payton of A to Z Sports report. The 26-year-old exceled in Mexico’s LFA league for two seasons, winning MVP honors in both campaigns for his play as a receiver and returner. That was followed by a spell with the UFL’s Arlington Renegades in which his special teams skills were on full display. Manigo ranked third in the league in all-purpose yards, racking up 1,116 in 10 games.

The Giants have not shied away from spring league additions this offseason, inking Jacob Saylors last week. He will compete for a position in the backfield, whereas Manigo would be added as a contender to win the primary return role. The latter was not a factor on offense with the Renegades, so third phase contributions will no doubt be his path to an NFL roster. New York used Parris Campbell on kick returns in 2023, but he departed in free agency. Gunner Olszewski – the Giants’ primary punt returner from last year – re-signed in March.

Manigo has also been in contact with the Titans, Payton and colleague Sam Phalen add. Tennessee remains in search of a primary returner, and a number of options have received a look so far this offseason. That group includes former first-rounder Treylon Burks, whose special teams performances during the summer will play a role in his ability to hold onto a roster spot in Nashville.

At five-foot-seven, Manigo will certainly face size concerns if he manages to land an NFL deal ahead of training camp. Still, the league’s new kickoff rules are expected to add to the number of returns, and increased emphasis will be placed on the play in 2024. Cowboys returner KaVontae Turpin is a recent example of an undersized player finding success after spending time in a spring league, and Manigo will look to join him in that regard. Both the Titans ($24.3MM) and Giants ($11.5MM) have the cap space to afford signing him in the near future.

Titans P Ryan Stonehouse Aiming To Return By Week 1

Ryan Stonehouse broke an 82-year-old NFL record as a rookie and gave the Titans similar advantages in the punt game during his second season, but Year 2 ended abruptly due to major injuries sustained in December. The record-setting punter remains on the mend.

A game in which the Colts blocked two punts led to the firing of the Titans’ special teams coordinator, and the second of those blocks — by Indianapolis DB Tony Brown — resulted in Stonehouse being carried off the field. The talented specialist suffered ACL and MCL tears, along with a broken bone in his left leg, as a result of the second block, per veteran Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky. While these issues have affected his non-kicking leg, Stonehouse is uncertain to be ready during training camp.

Too early to tell,” Titans HC Brian Callahan said (via TennesseeTitans.com’s Jim Wyatt) regarding a timetable. “I mean, the injury is obviously significant enough to where he’s still out at this point. He is rehabbing. He’s doing a great job in his rehab process. We’ll see where we get to when we report to training camp and where that’s at. His progress has been really good. He has been working, and it’s going to be a matter of when the doctors clear it when we get to training camp and then when he feels confident enough.”

A 2022 UDFA out of Colorado State, Stonehouse was a revelation as a rookie. He broke Sammy Baugh‘s single-season punting average mark, moving the NFL’s standard from 51.4 yards per boot (set in 1940) to 53.1. Stonehouse matched that average in 2023, though his season ended in Week 13. Stonehouse’s first two seasons sit atop the NFL’s single-season punt averages, with the Cowboys’ Bryan Anger matching Baugh’s mark last season. Only one other player — Shane Lechler (2009) — has surpassed 51 yards per punt in a season.

Stonehouse’s skills certainly make this a rehab effort to monitor. The injury occurred Dec. 3, putting Week 1 as a better aim for a Stonehouse return. The third-year punter said recently during a Sirius XM Radio interview a Week 1 return stands as his goal.

The Titans added Ty Zentner following Stonehouse’s injury; the fill-in option remains on Tennessee’s roster. Zentner, who also served as a Texans fill-in for Cameron Johnston last season, averaged 44.9 yards per punt as a rookie. The Titans will not need to determine if Stonehouse needs to begin the season on the reserve/PUP list, a designation that would sideline him for at least four games, until late August.

Minor NFL Transactions: 6/13/24

Here are Thursday’s minor moves:

Kansas City Chiefs

Miami Dolphins

Tennessee Titans

  • Waived/injured: OL X’Zauvea Gadlin

Gubner comes to the Chiefs after winning Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year honors at Montana last season. Spending six years at the Division I-FCS program, Gubner totaled 28.5 tackles for loss during his college career. The Chiefs also have cleared the runway for Matt Araiza‘s second chance. The recently added specialist is now the only punter on Kansas City’s roster, with Rehkow signing as a UDFA in May.

A former fifth-round Panthers pick, Nixon played 14 games with his original team but did see any game action in 2023. Both the Panthers and Seahawks waived Nixon in 2022. After Nixon had spent last season out of football, the Dolphins signed him in March.

Titans To Sign OL Geron Christian

The Titans devoted a top-10 pick to the tackle position, drafting an O-lineman (JC Latham) in Round 1 for a second straight year. Tennessee will still add another veteran to help fortify the spot, however.

Geron Christian agreed to terms with the Titans on Wednesday, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson reports. Christian spent last season with the Browns and Texans, being a nine-game Cleveland starter during a season in which the AFC North club lost both its starting tackles. This will reunite Christian with former Browns O-line coach Bill Callahan.

Christian marks the second former Callahan Cleveland charge to join the Titans this offseason. The team acquired Leroy Watson from the Browns in April. A former third-round pick, Christian has made 25 career starts. The former Washington draftee closed last season as Cleveland’s starting left tackle, with Jedrick Wills joining Jack Conklin and rookie RT fill-in Dawand Jones as sustaining a season-ending injury.

Christian, who went to training camp with the Dolphins before failing to make their 53-man roster, started the Browns’ final nine games and their wild-card outing in Houston. Pro Football Focus did not view Christian’s 2023 work fondly, though given how far down the depth chart the Browns needed to look at tackle last year, it is not exactly surprising their final LT option was inconsistent.

The Browns signed Christian after the Texans had released him from their practice squad in October. The Louisville alum combined for 14 starts from 2020-21, playing with Washington and Houston, initially changing teams after being waived in 2021. A rebuilding Texans team used the 320-pound blocker as a regular starter moving forward; the Chiefs slotted Christian as a backup in 2022.

Regarded as perhaps the NFL’s premier O-line coach, Callahan now has two of his recent pieces to help in Nashville. The Titans are expected to use Latham, 2023 first-rounder Peter Skoronski, free agent signing Lloyd Cushenberry and 2023 UFA pickup Daniel Brunskill as starters. Petit-Frere remains on his rookie contract, with fill-in starter Jaelyn Duncan also stands to be a right tackle option. Christian technically gives the Titans another option, but he has played left tackle for most of his NFL career. Still, the six-year veteran profiles as a candidate for a swing role in Brian Callahan‘s offense.

AFC South Rumors: Titans, Burks, Scruggs

The Titans seem confident in moving forward with second-year passer Will Levis as their starter under center. With Levis’ relative inexperience in the NFL, though, the backup quarterback job has become an important one.

In nine starts as a rookie, Levis struggled with a 3-6 record and only completed 58.4 percent of his passes. Not counting a Week 16 game in which he only saw the first two drives of the contest, Levis averaged 224 passing yards per game in an offense spearheaded by Derrick Henry. He showed considerable poise for a rookie, though, throwing eight touchdowns to only four interceptions and adding a rushing score to his total, as well.

So, despite Levis’ seemingly cemented status as QB1, the backup quarterback job will be a crucial one for the Titans in 2024, and new head coach Brian Callahan told the media that veteran Mason Rudolph and recent third-round pick Malik Willis will compete for the honor, per Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com. In two years with the team, Willis has seen limited usage with uninspiring results. Discounting garbage time or gadget play appearances here and there, Willis has made three starts, all coming in his rookie season. In those starts, Willis completed a combined 25 of his 49 pass attempts and didn’t once eclipse 100 passing yards as the offense was focused around Henry.

Rudolph saw his highest usage in 2019 with the Steelers, making eight starts in 10 games as an injury replacement for Ben Roethlisberger alongside Devlin Hodges. Despite going 5-4-1 as a starter while throwing 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions coming into 2022, Rudolph found himself seemingly out of consideration for the starting job as Mitchell Trubisky and Kenny Pickett combined for just 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. As those two continued to struggle to produce in 2023, Rudolph helped revive one of the league’s least efficient offenses as it circled the drain, rattling off three straight wins to help keep Mike Tomlin‘s streak of winning seasons alive before ultimately losing the team’s first-round playoff game.

Now, Rudolph and Willis will duke it out for backup duties behind Levis. If Levis struggles, Rudolph provides an ability to fill in as a proven starter. Willis will have a chance to show what he can provide, as well, as he continues to develop at the NFL level.

Here are a couple of other rumors coming out of the AFC South:

  • Staying in Nashville, Callahan stressed in an interview this week that wide receiver Treylon Burks will have to contribute on special teams in order to justify a roster spot this year, according to Easton Freeze of Broadway Sports Media. We profiled Burks recently as a trade candidate as the acquisitions of Calvin Ridley and Tyler Boyd pushed him further down the depth chart after a disappointing start for the former first-round selection out of Arkansas. While the Titans may not be willing to give up completely on Burks, they do recognize that his continued presence on the roster means he will need to find other ways to contribute if not on the starting offense.
  • Lastly, former second-round pick Juice Scruggs debuted late into his rookie season last year, starting at left guard for the Texans‘ final six games of the season after coming off injured reserve and replacing an injured Tytus Howard. Originally projected as an NFL center coming out of Penn State, Scruggs is expected to return to his natural position and start for Houston in 2024, according to Aaron Wilson of KPRC 2.