Projected Cap Space: $48 Million (projection dependent on salary cap rising to a reported $201 million)
First Round Draft Pick: Pick 29
Reminiscent of the Eagles underdog run of the 2017/2018 season, the Tennessee Titans were arguably the NFL’s ‘feel-good’ story this time around. Through their first dozen games they had a record perched at an uncomfortable 2-4 and were plagued by QB turmoil. Former first round pick Marcus Mariota refused to demonstrate signs of a player his coach could lean on under centre and display the ability that once made him a Heisman winner in college.
But with running back Derrick Henry finding mid-season form like he had just open a can of Popeye’s spinach and former Dolphins’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill stepping into the fold and discovering the form and talent that had alluded Hard Rock Stadium, the Titans began to roll.
Embracing their status of the ‘little guy’ (yes, that’s my attempt at irony) they took a wrecking-ball to the NFL hierarchy when they disposed of the dynasty which was the New England Patriots during wild card weekend. And with Mike Vrabel now seemingly finding his feet as a Head Coach, the Titans provided the football world with a tactical masterpiece against a Baltimore Ravens team who had wreaked havoc with a record-breaking league MVP quarterback during the sixteen game season.
The fairy tale story however wasn’t to be as the Chiefs ran rampant in an AFC Championship game which served as a reminder of how far the Titans have left to go before becoming real contenders for the big prize.
With former first-round draft pick quarterback Ryan Tannehill producing a career year in less than a season, the Titans now have a dilemma on their hands. Do they stick or twist? Do they reward a player recently announced the comeback player of the year or save cap space and look in the upcoming draft for the next potential face of their franchise?
With Vrabel landing a player who enabled his tactical ability to shine through during the latter parts of the season, and with other wounds across the team that cannot be seen to go untended in the draft, he will undoubtedly be reluctant to let such a thing slip through his grasp. Tannehill could enter the market with a price hanging around the $20 million mark following this seasons endeavours, a huge bite of the cap space the Titans are projected to have entering free agency if they choose to pursue that route.
Alongside that, his devastating tandem with running back Henry, also due a contract extension may prove too difficult to resist for the Titans front office. And this will unavoidably lead to standout players in the form of Logan Ryan and tackle Jack Conklin sacrificing themselves to the free agency market.
With the projected cap space for all NFL teams set to increase to around $200 million dollars (per Tom Pelissero) for the upcoming season, the Titans will feel that lady luck has rested gently on their shoulder as they look to strike a balance between re-investing in the nucleus of the team and attracting new fresh faces to help the cause.
And with little money to play with if they decide to re-sign standout performers like Tannehill and Henry, the need to bring in talent for cut-price deals becomes forever apparent. That could well come in the form of tackle Andrew Whitworth, a decent stop-gap on the o-line, who may be looking for one last pay day before age finally drags at his heels.
Wide-receiver Emmanuel Sanders may also be a guy that could end up going south. A player who showed this year in both Broncos and 49’ers colours, that despite being a veteran of the NFL, his talent as deep threat is still there for all to see. Sanders would be a noticeable addition to a wide-receiver core that has perhaps been guilty of leaning too heavily on rookie AJ Brown this season.
Other minor deals may also be struck, but with the Titans set to pay big contracts to the duo of Tannehill and Henry, major off-season moves may be seldom seen this time around.
2020 Draft (First Round Potential Pick)
Putting analytics to one side, the Titans failure to progress to this year’s Super Bowl was easily identified by the naked eye. The lack of a consistent and troubling pass rush allowed Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes to produce yet another disastrous display of awareness, mobility and dead-eye accuracy. And with a class brimming with potential pass-rushing talent, the Titans will look to the likes of Penn State alum, Yetur Gross-Matos or Texas native K’Lavon Chaisson to fall deep into the depths of the sea of first round picks to bolster the talent serviceable to them at the edge position.