5 Titans who could have an increased role in 2021

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Mike Moraitis
·5 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The Tennessee Titans will have some tough decisions to make with some of their own free agents in 2021, and they won’t have a lot of money to work with.

As it stands now, if the salary cap goes down to $176 million, which is the lowest it can go, Tennessee will be $7.3 million over, per Over the Cap.

Not only will that lead to the Titans letting some of their key free agents walk, but they will also have to make some cuts to free up more money.

With money tight and players sure to depart, Tennessee will no doubt look to cheaper alternatives to fill some holes. Here’s a look at five players who could fit the bill.

ILB David Long

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The situation at inside linebacker is murky right now, as one of the team's starters at the position, Jayon Brown, is set to hit free agency this offseason. Brown's season ended early in 2020 due to an elbow injury, and as a result we got a good long look at Long as a starter. He was mostly impressive in that role, as the former sixth-round pick played with great speed and instinct. The only issue is that Long wasn't the kind of elite coverage linebacker that Brown has proven to be during his career. Long allowed a completion rate of 85.3 percent, a QB rating of 113.8, and one touchdown when targeted. If the Titans don't retain Brown, Long will be the default option to replace him and one of the starting spots at inside linebacker will be his to lose.

RB Darrynton Evans

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Evans' first season in the NFL was marred by injury, with the third-round pick playing in just six games (including playoffs) in 2020. Even when he was healthy, Evans averaged just 5.8 snaps per game and was barely utilized as a runner or pass-catcher. That likely had more to do with all the time he missed in practice than anything else. Instead of utilizing Evans on passing downs, the Titans opted to go with Jeremy McNichols, who was sensational in pass protection overall. We saw flashes of what the explosive Evans can do in Week 15 when he totaled 57 yards on 10 touches (13 snaps) and a touchdown, and his 22.9 yards per kick return was tops among the team's regular returners. If Evans can remain healthy and prove to not be a liability in pass protection, he should get more snaps — and in turn, more touches — in the offense. At the very least, the Titans need to find creative ways to get the ball in Evans' hands, and he should be the team's primary returner as well.

CB Kristian Fulton

(AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Like Evans, Fulton's rookie campaign was limited because of injury. The LSU product played in just seven games (including playoffs) and after seeing regular snaps early in the season, Fulton was an afterthought upon his return. Head coach Mike Vrabel hinted that was a result of missed practice time, but we also have to factor the presence of Desmond King into the equation when trying to figure out what happened. The second-round pick wasn't bad in coverage in his six regular season games. He allowed a completion rate of 68.8 percent, a QB rating of 91.4, and one touchdown. Fulton also tallied one interception and one sack. To compare, Adoree' Jackson allowed a completion rate of 81.3 percent, a QB rating of 145.8 and three touchdowns in three regular season contests. Most of the Titans' secondary is under contract for 2021, but the big name to watch in regards to Fulton seeing an increased role is King, who will hit the open market this offseason. If King doesn't return, we should see Fulton get more snaps, whether that be in the slot or on the boundary if the Titans decide to deploy Jackson on the inside, which is an idea general manager Jon Robinson has floated before.

DB Amani Hooker

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

While Hooker was a mixed bag in coverage, as evidenced by his allowing an 81.3 percent completion rate but a QB rating of just 80.7, he did have a nose for the football, as his four picks were tied for the team lead. Money is going to be tight for the Titans in 2021, which could lead to Kenny Vaccaro being a cap casualty. Vaccaro had a lackluster season to say the least, as his tackling wasn't good at all and his coverage was even worse, allowing a completion rate of 73.2 percent, a QB rating of 115.7, and two scores. The veteran is set to make $7 million this coming season, but Tennessee can save $4 million by letting him go. If that's the approach the Titans take, Hooker would be next in line to start at safety.

DL Teair Tart

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Among the list of key free agents the Titans will have to make decisions on is defensive lineman DaQuan Jones, who made $8.3 million in 2020. Based on Tennessee's cap situation, that might be too rich for its blood, especially considering Jones has been good but not great during his tenure in Nashville. If Jones is allowed to walk, Tart will instantly become the favorite to take his spot up the middle. The 2020 UDFA out of Florida International was one of a few surprises on the Titans' roster in 2020, as he earned himself fairly significant playing time from Week 9 on, unexpectedly jumping some players on the depth chart in the process. It remains to be seen if Tart is the kind of helping hand the Titans need upfront to help take pressure off Jeffery Simmons, but he at least has a chance to get a look as a starter in 2021 if Jones goes elsewhere.