2017 Free Agency Preview: Tennessee Titans
[Editor’s note: This preview was originally published on Feb. 26, 2017, and updated on March 6 to reflect changes in the market do to franchise tags, re-signings, cuts, etc.]
What you need to know
Tennessee went from a three-win team in 2015 to barely missing the playoffs at 9-7 last season, and they now head into free agency (and the rest of the offseason) in better shape than most of the league. In addition to two first-round draft picks, the Titans currently own the fourth-most cap space league-wide and are the only team without an impending free agent who played more than 700 snaps in 2016.
Salary cap room
- Defensive back
- Wide receiver
Corner Brice McCain and safety Kevin Byard had decent seasons in coverage, but the rest of the team’s defensive backfield graded below-average in the passing game – collectively the Titans were the seventh-lowest-graded team in coverage.
Notable free agents
- Karl Klug, DI, 81.3 overall grade in 2016
- Anthony Fasano, TE, 76.5
- Kendall Wright, WR, 74.6
- Damion Stafford, S, 74.1
- Sean Spence, LB, 74.0
Karl Klug, DI, 81.3 overall grade in 2016
Klug’s season ended in December with a torn Achilles, likely limiting his free agent options. Health aside, he was the team’s best performing free agent, racking up 31 total pressures and an 81.3 overall grade in 399 snaps – the 22nd-best mark out of 127 qualifying interior defenders. Klug has graded above-average, both overall and as a pass-rusher, every season since being drafted in 2011, although he hasn’t played more than 500 snaps in a season since his rookie year.
Dream splash signing
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears, 77.6
The Titans had just one receiver who graded among the top 50 at the position – Rishard Matthews at 24th. Jeffery at 27 years old fits the bill as a top-flight weapon for quarterback Marcus Mariota, capable of dominant plays at the catch point, at all levels of the field.
Jeffery wouldn’t come without risk, however. Injuries have limited his playtime over the last two seasons and he was inconsistent when on the field in 2016, dropping a career-high five passes and catching less than 60 percent of his targets. But at his best, Jeffery is among the best at the position, which he showed in 2015.
Top 2017 free agency prospects
Dont’a Hightower, LB, New England Patriots, 85.7
The Titans have the cap space to consider all options, and Hightower should be one of them. While he’s consistently graded above-average in all facets on defense, Hightower is perhaps most valuable as a blitzer, a role in which he collected 30 pressures in 2016 and has averaged 26 pressures per season since being drafted.
Morris Claiborne, CB, Dallas Cowboys, 84.7
The former sixth overall pick had a breakout year in 2016 before an injury knocked him out for the second half of the year. He ranked among the top 20 corners in both completion rate (54.2) and passer rating (64.1) when targeted. What might concern teams with Claiborne is his performance prior to last season – he finished three of his first four seasons with below-average coverage grades, while his career passer rating allowed (97.9) is the ninth-highest among qualifying corners over that timeframe. If Claiborne maintains his current form, this could be a steal, similar to Casey Hayward last offseason, but there’s definite risk considering his career track record.
Terrelle Pryor, WR, Cleveland Browns, 78.6
In his first season at receiver, Pryor was more productive than any of the Titans receivers over the last three years. Pryor managed 77 catches and more than 1,000 receiving yards despite the instability at quarterback that comes with playing in Cleveland. He fell off late, but the converted quarterback was among the 10 best receivers, grade-wise, for much of the season.
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