NFL Free Agency: Ranking the 4 Players the Tennessee Titans Must Target
The Tennessee Titans were stunned by the eventual AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs, after earning the No. 1 seed in the AFC despite missing star running back Derrick Henry for half the season.
It was a shocking turn of events for a team that maxed itself out, salary-cap wise, in order to wrest control of the AFC away from the Kansas City Chiefs, only to be caught off-guard by the Cinderella Bengals, who knocked off both Tennessee and Kansas City en route to Super Bowl 56.
The loss was particularly painful for the Titans because of their financial situation. In going for it all in 2021, they left themselves with precious little maneuverability under the cap for the 2022 free agency period, coming into March $6.6 million over the cap.
That leaves them needed to be creative with their own free agents, as well as any they would like to bring in this offseason. Here are the four the Titans must focus on keeping and acquiring to stay at the top of the AFC for another season.
Harold Landry III, EDGE
Landry wants to get paid. Right now. Not just paid, but paid handsomely as one of the top edge rushers on the market. And Landry is almost certainly going to get what he’s looking for as a dynamic pass rusher who plays every down, never misses a play, and is entering his prime years.
The question is whether the Titans can afford to keep him long-term given the constraints of the salary cap. It seems likely that the Titans will do enough releasing and restructuring of contracts to free up enough room to make Landry a healthy offer, somewhere in the $17 million a year range.
The problem for the Titans will be if a team with salary-cap flexibility throws a huge offer in Landry’s direction.
Ben Jones, C
Generally speaking, teams are not in the habit of re-upping 33-year-old offensive lineman when they hit free agency. But Jones is such an integral part of the Titans’ offense, it’s hard to imagine Tennessee just letting him walk, even with all the salary cap obstacles in the way.
The San Francisco 49ers made it work with 32-year-old center Alex Mack, so it wouldn’t be unprecedented, and the Titans should be able to come up with a long-term deal for Jones that makes minimal impact on the cap in the first year.
Given the amount of work the team dedicates to Derrick Henry and the running game, keeping their most consistent offensive lineman is right there with retaining Landry as the top priority for the Titans.
David Njoku, TE
The Titans are entering free agency without a legitimate tight end on the roster, as Geoff Swain, Anthony Firkser and Mycole Pruitt are all free agents and none are likely to return as the team looks for all avenues of salary cap relief.
But someone is going to have to be the starter next season, and even if the Titans draft a tight end this April, they are going to want a veteran to man the position, as well.
There has been a lot of speculation about Miami Dolphins free agent Mike Gesicki making his way to Tenneesee, but given the salary he is likely to command, and the fact that he is much more a wide receiver than a run-blocking tight end, Gesicki doesn’t seem the right fit for the Titans.
The player who fits the profile best is Cleveland Browns free agent Njoku, who has never lived up to his potential in Cleveland, but can be an effective receiver and is a skilled run-blocker, which the Henry-led offense is most in need of.
But what makes Njoku particularly appealing is that he won’t cost much to bring in. Ideally, he can be signed to a one-year deal in the hopes of making himself attractive for the 2023 free-agent class, or to be re-signed to a long-term deal.
Christian Kirk, WR
The Titans have a big decision to make about Julio Jones, who was something of a bust for the Titans in 2021, between injuries and underwhelming performance when on the field. Releasing Jones would save them a decent chunk of cap space, but would leave them with one less receiver to complement A.J. Brown.
The Titans are in real need of a slot receiver and Christian Kirk could be the man to give them a dynamic pass-catcher who can play both in the slot and on the outside. Kirk would prefer to stay in Arizona, but with the Kyler Murray situation in flux, the Titans might be able to offer Kirk a stable position on an annual playoff contender.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference