The Tennessee Titans enter the 2021 offseason after a disappointing end to the year. In the best season that the Titans have had since 2008, Tennessee finished with an 11-5 record, the best offense in franchise history, and the worst defense in franchise history. They were like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde all year long, so finding consistency is one of the Tennessee Titans team needs.
Tennessee will have to make changes everywhere, as they’ll likely be searching for a defensive coordinator. Additionally, Arthur Smith is a top head coaching candidate, which means the Titans will have to find a new offensive coordinator too.
The Titans won’t have much wiggle room in cap space, as they’re projected to have just $6.2 million available. It’s likely the front office makes some roster cuts and contract restructures before they make any moves in free agency.
This franchise has been a consistent playoff contender for the last several years now, and they’re currently in a possible Super Bowl window. This offseason has to be considered the most important in franchise history, as each decision will make or break the Titans Super Bowl chances next year.
Tennessee Titans Team Needs: Staff
The coaching staff has to be addressed as soon as possible for the Titans. Last offseason, the front office, and Mike Vrabel decided not to hire a DC, which turned out to be a horrible decision overall.
With the offense being one of the best in the NFL, Tennesse is going to want a new OC that doesn’t change the offense completely. Familiarity is another important intangible piece to the Tennessee Titans team needs.
Hire Jim Leonhard as Defensive Coordinator
Jim Leonhard is a name that hasn’t received much attention in the NFL yet. However, his track record as the Wisconsin Badgers DC is quite impressive. Joining Wisconsin’s coaching staff as a DB coach in 2016, Leonhard was promoted to defensive coordinator in less than a year.
Since then, Leonhard has turned the Badgers into an elite defense in college football. During this stretch, Wisconsin has ranked third in scoring defense (17.2 points per game), fourth in total yards allowed (297.9 per game), fifth in rushing defense (112.3 yards per game), and fifth in pass efficiency defense (109). They also have forced the second-most turnovers with 104, where 68 of those were interceptions.
Clearly, Leonhard knows what he’s doing, and the Titans’ defense would greatly improve if they bring him aboard. Additionally, Leonhard coaches a defensive scheme that is similar to what the Titans already run, so the changes will be minimal. With defense being a major weak spot on this team, hiring Jim Leonhard easily makes the list of Tennessee Titans team needs.
Promote Keith Carter to Offensive Coordinator
The last time the Titans searched for a new offensive coordinator, the front office hired from within and promoted Arthur Smith. I’m fully expecting the Titans to do that again, as there are a few solid candidates on the coaching staff already.
Keith Carter joined the franchise in 2018 and has been a phenomenal offensive line coach since then. During the 2020 season, Carter was able to coach one of the best O-lines in the league, only allowing 25 sacks (tied sixth-best in the league) and led the way for Derrick Henry to break the 2,000-yard mark in rushing.
What’s more impressive, the offensive line dealt with injuries all year and played most of their games with second and third stringers. Taylor Lewan was lost early in the season, while Rodger Saffold and Ben Jones were on and off the field with their own injuries. Furthermore, first-round pick Isaiah Wilson never played an important snap all year.
Carter also has six years of experience in the Shanahan system, which is what Arthur Smith was already running. Promoting Carter gives the Titans familiarity, however, this would be the first time in Carter’s career calling plays. However, promoting Keith Carter makes the most sense and should be considered one of the Tennessee Titans team needs.
Tennessee Titans Team Needs: Free Agency
The Titans will have to make some room this offseason, so expect at least one big contract player to be cut and for some players to restructure their contract. The goal is to keep the core group while addressing the holes on the team.
Cut Malcolm Butler
The Titans’ defense was weak throughout, however, Malcolm Butler was a consistent player for Tennessee. Ending the year with 100 total tackles, 14 pass deflections, and four interceptions, Butler had the best season of his career. He stepped up when the secondary needed him, as starting CB Adorre’ Jackson missed most of the season with an injury.
Although Bulter was efficient, cutting him makes the most sense for Tennessee. With the franchise strapped for cash, the cut could give the Titans a potential $10 million to spend elsewhere. The Titans also have depth at the position. Jackson will be back healthy, Desmond King is a possible re-sign candidate, and rookie Kristian Fulton should be demanding more playing time in 2021.
Re-sign Corey Davis
After three quiet years, Corey Davis finally emerged as a solid WR2 for the Titans. Davis ended the season with 984 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 65 receptions, all career highs. Considering the Titans’ lack of depth at the position, the front office should consider re-signing Davis.
In addition to Davis’ production in the passing game, his down-field blocking plays a vital role in the Titans’ success. If you go back and watch some of the Titans’ big plays, Davis is making key blocks for both Henry and AJ Brown. Davis may just be the best blocking WR in the league.
AJ Brown has become one of the best young wide receivers in the NFL, and having Davis play Robin to his Batman will only help the Titans be successful. Adam Humphries has been good, but can’t seem to stay healthy, and Kalif Raymond just doesn’t cut it as the fourth WR on the roster. Letting Davis walk would slow down the Titans’ growth and potential for next year. This also opens the opportunity for the front office to draft another wide receiver as a luxury pick, rather than a desperate need.
Re-sign Desmond King
Desmond King was traded from the Los Angeles Chargers to the Titans right before the trade deadline this year. It was a great move by the front office, as the defense was struggling in every way imaginable. After ending the year with 55 total tackles, two pass deflections, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown, King ended the season as a good slot-corner for Tennessee.
If the front office decides to part ways with Butler, re-signing King becomes one of the Tennessee Titans team needs. Having a combination of Jackson, King, and Fulton can go a long way in the Titans’ passing defense. This signing would also ease pressure in the draft, which would allow Tennessee to draft a position of greater need.
Re-sign Jonnu Smith
After being on nearly everyone’s radar to be a fantasy football sleeper, Jonnu Smith wound up being an inconsistent tight end. Finishing with 448 yards and eight touchdowns, Smith’s involvement in the game plan was sporadic. But, bringing him back is essential for Tennessee, considering they likely won’t be able to draft the NFL Draft‘s number one tight end, Kyle Pitts, and there aren’t many exciting names available in free agency this year.
However that may be the case, a large reason why Smith seemed to get lost in the game plan was that his blocking abilities were needed much more once Talor Lewan fell to injury. Smith is an underrated blocker, and with a healthy offensive line, he’ll have more opportunities to show off his playmaking abilities. Bringing back Jonnu Smith has to be one of the Tennessee Titans team needs.
Sign Ryan Kerrigan
A bit on the older side, Ryan Kerrigan still has some gas left in the tank. He played more of a backup role for the Washington Football Team after they drafted Chase Young. Kerrigan was less than impressive this year, as he finished with 17 total tackles and five and a half sacks.
However, with the state the Titans pass rush is in, Kerrigan would’ve tied for the most sacks on the team, which is embarrassing, to say the least. Tennessee will be drafting an edge rusher in the draft, but bringing in Kerrigan would be a huge move. Not only will he have a chance to perform, but Kerrigan would be a great veteran leader for the Titans young edge-rushing group.
Tennessee Titans Team Needs: NFL Draft
There aren’t many holes to fill on this roster, as the pass rush is the most notable weakness on the team. Tennessee is in a position to make a few luxury picks that could really put the roster over the top. Titans fans should be looking forward to the draft this year.
Draft Pass Rushers
The Titans pass rush was one of the worst in the league after finishing with just 19 sacks total. 10 teams didn’t even make the playoffs that ended with more sacks than the Titans, which is absolutely brutal.
Luckily for Tennesse, this year’s draft class is loaded with pass-rushing talent. The Titans will have the 22nd pick in the first round, which gives them a great chance to land one of the top guys this year. A few players that could make a huge impact for Tennessee are Gregory Rousseau, Patrick Jones II, Joseph Ossai, and Quincy Roche.
Draft a Wide Receiver
If the Titans do bring back Corey Davis, drafting a WR would still be a great decision. Adding another weapon would never hurt, and this year’s draft class is deep at WR again. AJ Brown is a solid WR1, while Davis provides consistency as a WR2. What the Titans offense could really use is speedster to open up the field a bit more.
Depending on how the draft goes, the Titans could find a solid prospect in rounds two through four. I like their chances of finding a speedy WR this year, and there are a few players that should be on their radar. A few of them being Elijah Moore, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Dazz Newsome.
Draft Offensive Lineman
The Titans had one of the better offensive lines last year. Between the key starters and the depth the roster provided, Tennessee was able to produce the best offense in franchise history.
However, Lewan, Saffold, Jones, and Dennis Kelly will all be in their 30s by next year. The front office has also invested a ton of money into the O-line, and with the cap space whittling away every year, it would be wise to start finding new prospects now.
Isaiah Wilson has been a huge disappointment, but there is still hope he can figure it out. But using a third or fourth-round pick on an offensive lineman would be smart for this franchise down the road. Titans fans should feel great if the franchise winds up with either Walker Little, Jalen Mayfield, or Deonte Brown.