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Offseason Team Previews

2022 Tennessee Titans Offseason Preview

by Kyle Dvorchak
Updated On: March 9, 2022, 12:54 am ET

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The final whistle of the Super Bowl marks the end of the 2021 season. That solidifies all draft positions and gets us looking to free agency as the next chance for teams to make significant changes to their rosters. In this series, I’ll break down the needs and goals of every team as it relates to the 2022 offseason. Included will be cap space, cut candidates, positions of need, and plenty of other useful stats and notes as we prepare for free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft. Special thanks to Over the Cap, Pro Football Reference, Pro Football Focus, and Ben Baldwin’s RBSDM.com for all of the useful stats they track and house. 

Titans 2021 Recap

The Titans kicked off their summer by trading for long-time Falcon Julio Jones. The move was a clear signal that Tennessee was going all-in on their current roster. They had Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry inked to long-term deals with A.J. Brown still on his rookie contract. Add Julio to the mix and the offense was primed to go nuclear. Instead, no one could stay healthy. The trio of Jones, Henry, and Brown combined for 19 missed games. They played 120 snaps together. Despite the obvious deficit of available talent and cohesion on the offense, the Titans rallied together behind a crew of backup running backs and closed out the season as the highest seed in the AFC. In their only playoff game, Henry didn’t look ready to return and Tannehill implied, throwing three interceptions and a single touchdown.

Key Offensive Stats

  • Points per game: 24.6 (15th)
  • Dropback EPA: .09 (14th)
  • Passing yards per game: 201 (24th)
  • Rush EPA: -.05 (13th)
  • Rushing yards per game: 141 (5th)

 

Even though Julio was in and out of the lineup during this time, the Titans were clicking through eight weeks. They ranked second in EPA per dropback and fourth in EPA per rush attempt over this span. Tennessee was 6-2 with four 30-point performances. Then Henry went down with a foot injury and everything came apart at the seams. The offense went into a shell and Tannehill returned to his Dolphins state. He averaged 192 yards per game at 6.4 yards per attempt in his final nine games of the regular season. The Titans didn’t have a 1,000-yard rusher or receiver for the first time since 2017. The good news is that all of the big names on offense are under contract for 2022. If they can stay healthy, expect a ludicrous rebound from the offense. 

Key Defensive Stats

  • Points per game: 20.8 (6th)
  • Dropback EPA: .01 (9th)
  • Passing yards per game: 245 (25th)
  • Rush EPA: -.08 (13th)
  • Rushing yards per game: 85 (2nd)

 

The narrative surrounding Tennessee’s defense heading into the season was that their secondary was going to be picked apart by any passing attack with a pulse. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Kevin Byard and Amani Hooker were both graded as top-five safeties by Pro Football Focus. It was just the third time since 2004 that a team fielded two top-five safeties with at least 300 snaps. The Titans’ second-round pick from 2020, Kristian Fulton, and free agent signing Janoris Jenkins stepped up as starting outside corners. They combined to allowed seven yards per attempt when targeted. Much like the offense, all of the starters in Tennessee’s secondary are under contract for the 2022 season.

Titans 2022 Offseason

Notes

 

Cap Space

-$7.9 million

First Pick

No. 26

Total Draft Value

28th

Notable Free Agents

RT David Quessenberry, C Ben Jones, DE Harold Landry, TE Geoff Swaim, LB Rashaan Evans

Cut Candidates

LG Rodger Saffold ($10.4 million in savings), OT Kendall Lamm ($3.2 million), P Brett Kern ($3.2 million), LT Taylor Lewan ($12.9 million), LB Zach Cunningham ($10.4 million), CB Janoris Jenkins ($6.9 million)

Notes: Tennessee's total draft value is the sum of the value of every pick they own using the Fitzgerald-Spielberger NFL Draft Trade Value Chart. The values are only estimates until the NFL announces compensatory picks. Cap savings are listed assuming the player is cut before June 1st.

The Titans are over the cap and playing with fewer chips in the draft because of the Julio trade. However, they do have plenty of ways to clear cap space, though the decisions won’t be easy. Saffold and Lamm are easy to cut as neither offers something that can’t be found on the open market at a phenomenal discount. Lewan, Cunningham, and Jenkins are all hard choices but the savings gained by moving on will draw attention to their contracts.

Team Needs

Tight End
The Titans are losing nearly 1,600 snaps at tight end to free agency. They also got next to no production from their tight ends last year, so don’t expect to see Swaim, MyCole Pruitt, or Anthony Firkser back on the roster in a starting role next year. With most of the big free agents at tight end receiving the franchise tag, this could be a position the Titans choose to address via the draft. 

Offensive Tackle
Quessenberry is a free agent and Lewan could be on the chopping block if the Titans are desperate for cap space. It’s likely that one of these positions will need to be filled, and the possibility that both are gone has to be considered.

Defensive End
Harold Landry is a free agent and the Titans could be looking to get out from under Bud Dupree’s contract as soon as next offseason. Re-signing Landry would solve this need but the Titans could also look to add an eventual replacement for Dupree in the middle rounds of the draft.

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Coaching Changes

Inside linebackers coach Jim Haslett was fired after two seasons with the Titans. Rashaan Evans and Jayon Brown opened the year as starters but both appeared to take steps in the wrong direction under Haslett. The unit was saved when Houston gifted them Zach Cunningham by waiving him late in the year. 

After a lackluster season on offense, Tim Kelly was brought in as a senior offensive assistant and passing game coordinator. Kelly previously worked with head coach Mike Vrabel while the two were in Houston. The Titans’ offense struggled to find its footing after the departure of offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. First-year OC Todd Downing didn’t know what to do without his stars in the lineup every week. After Henry went down, Tannehill’s deep pass rate dropped by one percent and his play-action rate dropped by three percent. The team’s overall pass rate also dropped by two percent. As a passing game coordinator, one would hope Kelly can keep the team focused on its strengths, even when key players are out of the lineup.

Offseason Outlook

Though it’s easy to blame outside factors for a team’s shortcomings, they hold a lot of water in Tennessee's case. Getting all of their big names on the field at the same time will be a massive boon to the offense. Still, there's no guarantee that the team gets to play together for long. Julio has missed 14 games over the past two years and Brown has been absent for six contests. Plus, Henry’s health faltered for the first time and he is now 28 years old. Adding a playmaker at tight end would fill their need at the position while also giving Tannehill another option to throw to if (when) his receivers are banged up. With a healthy and talent-infused offense, the Titans will look to avenge their single-game appearance in the playoffs with a deeper run in the upcoming postseason.