The NFL Veterans Combine was held on Saturday, and while some players disappointed, others showed they could potentially still contribute to NFL teams at a low price tag. With Tennessee still looking to fill some holes, here’s some players that were on display Saturday that could help the Titans
Adam Carriker (DE): While he never fully lived up to his first-round pick potential, Carriker was a solid NFL player before a knee injury put an end to things. Throwing Carriker into what’s shaping up to be a deep Titans front seven could help limit the stress on that knee and make him effective in spurts. The signing wouldn’t be an alternative to drafting Leonard Williams or Randy Gregory, but merely a complimentary signing to provide more depth along the defensive line.
Tyler Wilson (QB): Wilson reportedly demonstrated the best arm strength of any quarterback at the combine on Saturday. Who is starting for the Titans under center this year is still a mystery, but giving the former Arkansas standout a shot could prove to give incumbent signal caller Zach Mettenberger some solid competition. Wilson would be a minimal-risk signing, meaning the Titans could still proceed with any plans they had of drafting a quarterback. But with the Titans’ offense in flux, adding more options isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Jamaal Anderson (DE): The logic behind signing Anderson is similar to that of Carriker. But with Anderson, he’s shown a newfound motivation that seemed to lack in his six years in the league. How much he can contribute is unclear, but putting his motivation and whatever’s left of his first-round potential from years ago into Dick LeBeau‘s hands could hold good results.
Mikel Leshoure (RB): Injuries held LeShoure to just 17 games in his first three seasons with the Lions, but he was successful when on the field. The Titans are in need of a physical back with the Shonn Greene experiment failing and LeShoure could be a low-cost solution. Like with the Carriker, Wilson and Anderson, adding LeShoure wouldn’t have to impact any plans the Titans have of adding players at the same position. Coming off a 2-14 season, worrying about having too much talent isn’t a luxury Tennessee has. So giving LeShoure a shot in camp would be a good idea.
James Harrison said on Saturday that he’d pray on his decision and ask his kids for help in choosing between the Titans and Steelers. On Sunday, the veteran made his decision.
The 36-year-old will be returning to Pittsburgh on a two-year contract. Harrison will make $2.75-million over the life of the deal, and he’ll join a Steelers linebacking core that looked quite thin heading into free agency. In addition to Harrison hitting free agency, the Steelers lost middle linebacker Jason Worilds to retirement, leaving Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier as the only players left in the group that made significant contributions in 2014.
Harrison solves issues for the Steelers, but the Titans are left looking for a linebacker. The team’s desire to add a veteran presence could lead them to former Colts and Chargers linebacker Dwight Freeney, who found himself on the free agent market after San Diego elected not to pursue a new contract with him. They could also look to former Patriot and Bill Brandon Spikes, who I wrote last week would be a great fit. There are still several quality options on the market and the draft offers fixes as well. The Titans need to make a move, though the lack of a fix at this time shouldn’t offer reason for fans to panic.
It was reported on Saturday that veteran linebacker James Harrison will decide in the near future between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tennessee Titans. For Harrison, the decision comes down to picking his longtime club or his longtime defensive coordinator (Dick LeBeau, now the associate head coach of Tennessee).
“The opinions of my support team are split, but for me, my love for the man who both started, and made my career what it is, is undeniable,” Harrison said in an Instagram post. “There are no words that I can find that would do justice for everything Dick LeBeau has done for me & my career and nothing can compare to that!
But while Nashville and Harrison’s mentor are calling, there’s also 11 years of history tugging at his heartstrings.
“I also have a great amount of love for Steelers Nation & the Steelers organization,” Harrison continued in his post. “I’m going to pray on this and let God guide me in the right direction.”
While Harrison is clearly not the player he was five years ago, the Titans should still pursue him as if he were the missing piece to a Super Bowl squad. That’s not the case, and it’s not to say Tennessee should be sending Harrison a $10-million contract offer this afternoon. But with multiple Super Bowls to his resume and the remarkable drive and work ethic to still be a productive player at age 36, Harrison would still make a great locker room acquisition and solid addition to a defense in transition.
At the end of the day, nothing the Titans do will likely be the deciding factor in Harrison’s decision, but they should be able to walk away saying they did whatever they could to recruit the former Steeler. Especially if the Titans are planning on taking a defensive player with the second overall pick in the draft, what better mentor to help bring him along in 2015 than Harrison?
Tennessee Titans CEO Mike Smith resigned from his position on Friday, the team announced. Smith reportedly wanted to spend more time at his position as president and chairman of Adams Resources and Energy, Inc.
Smith’s resignation comes less than two years after he replaced former owner Bud Smith in the roles.
“We have made some moves within the Titans organization, both on and off the field, that I believe will bring some very positive immediate results,” Smith said in a statement. “There is a side of me that wishes I could continue to be heavily involved, but I will remain an avid Titans fan while leaving those decisions in the hands of professionals who are fully focused.”
Adams’ daughters Susan and Amy will pick the next CEO of the team, and will likely look for a more locally-based candidate to take the position. Smith performed his duties from Houston, giving the front office instability throughout his year-plus tenure.
Former senior executive Steve Underwood will fill Smith’s duties during the search. Underwood oversaw day-to-day operations for the Titans from 2005-2011 before announcing his retirement in late July of that year.
The move only further extends the reach of the organization’s rebuilding effort, with the Titans already making several on-field personnel moves this year both in terms of coaching (Dick LeBeau) and player (Brian Orakpo, Harry Douglas, etc.) acquisitions. The new CEO will look to lead the Titans, who finished a league-worst 2-14 a season ago, to their first playoff berth since 2008.
Dick LeBeau and Ray Horton likely have smiles on their faces after looking at the list of defensive weapons the Titans have added in the last week. But on the offensive side of the ball, the moves have been less exciting.
The front office brought in receiver Harry Douglas and tight end Anthony Fasano to help bolster the passing attack, but the offensive line still needs work with Michael Roos retiring and Michael Oher being cut due to ineffectiveness.
Former Falcons guard Justin Blalock reportedly visited Tennessee early this week, but with or without Blalock the Titans still lack a strong option at center. Former Raider Stefen Wisniewski is far and away the best option on the market, and the Titans could probably afford him given their cap space. But with the veteran center visiting Seattle on Thursday, the odds of him joining a team trying to turn things around over a team that’s played in two straight Super Bowls are unlikely. So, where to next?
Longtime Texans center Chris Myers was let go earlier this offseason and remains on the market waiting for interest to spark once Wisniewski signs. Myers was the anchor of the Texans’ offensive line during Houston running back Arian Foster‘s best days, but like Foster, he has lost a step. But like with Foster, that doesn’t mean there’s not still some quality left in the tank, and the Titans should strike on Myers while other teams are battling for the services of Wisniewski.
Myers would add a veteran presence to a young line and help turn around a rushing game that struggled heavily in 2014. Because of his age, he would likely come on the cheap (unlike Wisniewski), and would also allow the Titans to focus elsewhere in the upcoming draft in May.
During up the line could be what second-year back Bishop Sankey needs to take that next step in his development, so if the Titans are hoping to get more out of that previous investment, perhaps they should invest in some pieces around him. Myers would be a great place to start.
It’s been a productive first week of free agency for the Titans. Between keeping several of their own key contributors and adding new weapons on both sides of the ball, the team is significantly better today than they were this time two weeks ago. But with division rivals improving all around them and $20+-million reportedly available in cap space, there’s no excuse to sit back and call it an offseason.
Even if the flashy signings are done, a big part of the offseason still remains. The Titans hold the second overall pick in the draft, which sounds like it will be used to take either quarterback Marcus Mariota or defensive standouts Leonard Williams or Randy Gregory. Any of the three could prove to be impact acquisitions, but the Titans also have six more picks. So how should they go about using them?
One option that hasn’t been brought up nearly enough is Indiana running back Tevin Coleman. While he’s considered a less sexy option than backs like Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Georgia’s Todd Gurley, Coleman was still one of the nation’s most dominant backs in 2014. The 6’0, 210-pound back rushed for over 2000 yards last season, notably carrying the Hoosiers past the Missouri Tigers in an upset victory in late September.
The Titans haven’t been linked to Coleman, but he would make for an upgrade over veteran tailback Shonn Greene as the team’s power back and could likely surpass second-year back Bishop Sankey as the team’s starter quickly.
Coleman’s combination of power, size and speed is something only matched by likely-first rounders Gordon and Gurley, both of whom are unlikely to end up in a Titans uniform unless they fall into the second round. While taking Coleman at the top of the second round might be deemed “reaching” by many industry experts, the NFL’s best teams make their success out of taking players that will improve their respective ball clubs instead of worrying about perceived “value.” Coleman would make the Titans significantly better and should be considered when Day 2 kicks off on May 1.
When it comes to the linebacker position, the Titans have had arguably the most flashy offseason of any team. They kept pass rusher Derrick Morgan and also went out and added former Redskins first rounder Brian Orakpo. But with a lack of top options on the open market to help bolster the offense, it’d be unwise for Tennessee to sit back and be content with the additions they’ve made.
Because of the underwhelming pool of offensive free agents out there, the best thing the Titans can do going forward is to continue stockpiling weapons for Dick LeBeau. They’ve done well to sure up the defensive backfield with the signings of Perrish Cox and Da’Norris Searcy, and at this point there aren’t any glaring needs on the defensive side of the ball. But that doesn’t mean improvements can’t be made.
What’s the best way to spice up the defense? Unless the team is willing to part with multiple top draft picks to go sign Justin Houston, the answer to that question is adding Brandon Spikes.
Spikes is the top inside linebacker available on the free agent market. Teams get scared off by his inability to play on passing downs, but Avery Williamson and Zach Brown could both replace Spikes in those situations, giving the Titans one of the deepest linebacking cores in all of football.
While it may not make sense to go spend on another linebacker, the Titans can look to the Baltimore Ravens as an example of making a living through ample linebacker depth. The Ravens have used second-string talent like Paul Kruger, Pernell McPhee and others through the years to fill the NFL equivalent of a basketball “sixth man,” giving the defense fresh legs and exploiting the opposition’s tired starters. Spikes would create a similar effect for the Titans, presumably taking a starting job and pushing Williamson, Brown, Zaviar Gooden and Kamerion Wimbley into the second-string platoon of talented linebackers.
Recent seasons have demonstrated that being defensively sound can help compensate for being subpar on offense, and that may be the Titans’ best bet at being competitive in 2015. They’ll be betting on youth to contribute in a big way on the offensive side of the ball. That’s a gamble that could go one of two very different ways. But constructing a defense to reckon with would go a long way towards making that much less of a problem, and Spikes would go a long way towards getting there.