2019 was a dream year in the Music City. Following their upset victory over the New England Patriots, the Tennessee Titans bashed their way through the seemingly unstoppable Baltimore Ravens to get to the AFC Championship game. In the conference title game, the Kansas City Chiefs hung a 35-piece on Mike Vrabel’s unit, leaving a sour taste on what was otherwise an outstanding campaign.
2020 left more to be desired.
Despite five straight wins to open up the year on their way to clinching their first division title since 2008, the Titans defense lacked the punch Vrabel desired, allowing a staggering 439 points, the most of any playoff team. Now, general manager Jon Robinson is tasked with maneuvering through his 11 free agents set to enter the open market on the defensive side of the ball, including Jadeveon Clowney, Desmond King, and DaQuan Jones.
So, let’s get right to it. Here is an early look at potential players Robinson could look to target when the signing period begins in just over a week.
Leonard Williams, IDL, New York Giants
With just over $4.5M in projected cap space, the Titans have a little space to work with before getting creative. Long story short, the Titans were abysmal up front in 2020. The team recorded just 19 sacks—third-fewest in the NFL—and the addition of Clowney, who they believed could rejuvenate his career in Nashville, was unproductive. He appeared in just eight games, totaling 19 tackles without a single sack before finishing the year on injured reserve. Robinson has attempted to add assets up front in Jeffery Simmons and Harold Landry in recent drafts, but the potential prize of the free agent class in Williams—just 27 come Week 1 next fall—would be a massive add into Shane Bowen’s unit.
The Giants have expressed interest in re-signing Williams, but he could garner a larger payday if he decides to depart from New York. Williams predicates his game on the ability to get after the passer by any means necessary. An uber-athletic lineman, Williams touts elite footwork fueled by a high motor that is a bear to block for 60 minutes. He also is entering the prime of his career, coming off of arguably his best season as a pro, totaling 11.5 sacks and 30 QB hits in 2020.
Denico Autry, EDGE, Indianapolis Colts
Autry has quietly enjoyed a productive career thus far. Entering his eighth year in the league, he has consistently provided juice off the edge, recording 30.5 sacks during his time in Oakland and Indianapolis. Landry desperately needs help on the opposite side. Clowney was expected to be the guy, pairing with Landry to form a formidable duo on the outside for Vrabel, but the plan never came to fruition.
Robinson will add to the EDGE room in multiple ways this offseason, that much is true. Whether it’s via free agency, the draft, or both, Tennessee must address their perimeter rushers, and Autry would be an excellent veteran addition with tons of gas left in the tank who consistently finds himself in the opposition's backfield.
Michael Davis, CB, Los Angeles Chargers
The Titans’ defense is built from the top down. Kevin Byard, Kenny Vaccaro, and Malcolm Butler headline Bowen’s unit, and rightly so.
Dipping into the bargain bin, Davis would be a nice addition alongside Butler, Adoree’ Jackson, and Kristian Fulton. With King poised to pursue an opportunity elsewhere, Davis would provide starter’s experience at just 26 years old. Throughout his first four seasons in the NFL, Davis progressively earned more snaps, starting in nine, 12, and 14 games, respectively, the last three seasons. He also has a knack for making plays in space, recording five interceptions in the last two seasons combined. For cheap, Davis could carve a nice role into Bowen’s defense as a starter or as a rotational piece in subpackages.
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