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Free Agency Preview: Titans Need To Upgrade Their Passing Game

Will the Titans make substantial moves in free agency and how will this impact the fantasy landscape? Hasan Rahim reviews Tennessee’s 2018 season, outlines players the team will lose to free agency and considers free agent targets.

Free agency and salary data included in this article was sourced from Spotrac.

The Titans are currently projected to have $40,395,557 in cap space for 2019, assuming the league’s new salary cap is set at $189 million.

2018 In Summary

The Titans finished third in the AFC South with a 9-7 record, and narrowly missed making the playoffs. The Titans’ passing game ranked close to dead last in most categories, which could be directly attributed to Marcus Mariota playing through several injuries. Titans Offensive Ranks

Given that Mariota played through a myriad of injuries, the Titans’ ceiling was capped. Mariota suffered an elbow injury in Week 1 and forced himself to play through several nagging injuries.1 It should come as no surprise that Mariota posted career lows in almost every passing category.

Marcus Mariota career

With their passing offense on the fritz, the Titans turned into a run-heavy offense for the latter half of the season.

Derrick Henry was ostensibly the biggest winner once the Titans embraced their run-heavy strategy. Henry cracked double-digit scoring in only four games before emerging as the fantasy playoffs MVPDerrick Henry Splits

Henry’s scoring output is the fourth-best performance by an RB in the fantasy playoffs. More impressively, Henry posted these gaudy totals without eclipsing three targets.

Best RB Playoff

Dion Lewis operated as mostly a change-of-pace RB over the second-half of the season, posting low-end RB3 numbers.

Offensive Free Agents

Quinton Spain G 28 $1,907,000 UFA
Kevin Pamphile G 28 $1,400,000 UFA
Luke Stocker TE 31 $1,100,000 UFA
Austin Davis QB 30 $790,000 UFA
David Fluellen RB 27 $585,000 ERFA
Michael Campanaro WR 28 UFA

AAV stands for average annual value and is calculated by dividing the total value of a contract by its life.

The Titans aren’t losing any of their key playmakers on offense in free agency. The biggest position of need for the Titans is their offensive line, and I expect that they’ll look to upgrade it in free agency. As seen in the RotoViz Weekly Stat Explorer, the Titans’ offensive line ranked 21st in the NFL. It’s likely that the lack of protection up front was what led to Mariota’s slew of injuries in the first place. The offensive line surrendered 3.1 sacks per game2 and upgrading this unit should be one of the biggest priorities for the Titans’ front office.

It’s unlikely that the Titans will bring David Fluellen back. Fluellen rarely saw the field as a Titan and the team currently has Jeremy McNichols and Dalyn Dawkins on the roster. The team will probably look to add some RB depth via the NFL Draft, much like last season. The Titans signed Larry Rose III and Akrum Wadley as UDFAs last year. Unfortunately, both players were waived before the start of the NFL season and are currently plying their trade in the Alliance of American Football (AAF).

Potential Moves

The Titans released Rishard Matthews three weeks into season, despite signing him to a one-year, $7.75 million extension. Matthews was unhappy with the reduction in playing time and requested a trade or release. Matthews’ absence was sorely felt and the team lacked a true No. 2 receiving option throughout 2018. Additionally, Delanie Walker suffered an ankle injury in the Titans’ Week 1 game against the Miami Dolphins and was forced to miss the remainder of the season.

Titans Receiving BreakdownNeither Tajae Sharpe nor Taywan Taylor were able to consistently capitalize on the available opportunity, and it’s likely that the Titans look to upgrade their receiving corps this off-season. Corey Davis may have flashed tantalizing upside last season, but has yet to fully deliver as the Titans’ alpha receiver.3

Titans AYA

Interestingly, there were reports that indicated that the Titans were willing to surrender a first round pick for Amari Cooper last season. It seems likely that the Titans will address their need at WR via free-agency and the NFL Draft.

A reunion with Matthews may seem unlikely, but the Titans could look to target Tyrell Williams, Chris Hogan, John Brown, or Phillip Dorsett in free agency. The team would benefit by adding a field-stretcher. I hope they sign either Williams or Brown. 

Additionally, several mock drafts indicate that the Titans could look to add another WR in the first round of the NFL Draft. Marquise Brown,4 A.J Brown, and D.K. Metcalf are the three WRs who the mock drafters are most bullish on.

Mock drafters are also optimistic that the Titans might draft T.J. Hockenson in the first round. The Titans could use an upgrade at the TE position, given that Walker is coming off an ankle injury in his age-35 season and Jonnu Smith was disappointing as the primary TE.5

If the Titans are looking to spend their first-round pick on a WR, they could look to address the TE position via free agency. Jared Cook, Demetrius Harris, Jeff Heuerman, C.J. Uzomah, Geoff Swaim, and Eric Swoope are all unrestricted free agents and could be signed quite cheaply.

Final Thoughts

Mariota was primed for a post-hype breakout last season, but unfortunately he posted career-worst numbers since entering the NFL. The team is in dire need of revamping its passing offense,6 and should actively be looking to upgrade upon their current receiving corps. Ideally, the team signs Williams in free agency and drafts Brown7 in the first round. I also think the Titans should consider adding Cook in free-agency, who should become a good target for Mariota over the middle. If the Titans are successful in revamping their aerial offense, they could challenge for the AFC South title.

  1. Blaine Gabbert is essentially the white flag in human form.  (back)
  2. Mariota was sacked 42 times last season – a new career-high  (back)
  3. Davis’ final receiving line of 65-891-4 is mildly disappointing given the lack of target competition, but it’s likely that Mariota’s struggles adversely impacted Davis.  (back)
  4. Marquise Brown reportedly had Lisfranc surgery this offseason and will miss the NFL combine.   (back)
  5. Smith posted a 20-258-3 line before missing the last two weeks of the season with an MCL injury.  (back)
  6. and offensive line!  (back)
  7. A.J., not Marquise  (back)

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