How an Uncapped Season Affects the Tennessee Titans
By Jeff Fuqua
Jan 15, 2010 - 9:08:14 AM
As the March deadline quickly approaches, it doesn't appear as if a new Collective Bargaining Agreement will be in place and 2010 will be the NFL's first uncapped year in 16 years.
If 2010 is an "uncapped" season, every player from the '05 draft who signed a five-year deal or, if drafted in '06 with a four-year deal, will remain with the team who drafted them as a restricted free agent. This will reduce the number of unrestricted free agents available this year by 212 players which is significant as you'll see in the positional breakdowns.
Here are those Titans players who are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents if a CBA is reached by March :
RB LenDale White
TE Alge Crumpler
TE Bo Scaife
G Eugene Amano
C Kevin Mawae
DT Tony Brown
DT Kevin Vickerson
DE Kyle Vanden Bosch
DE Jevon Kearse
DE Dave Ball
LB Ken Amato
LB Keith Bulluck
LB Stephen Tulloch
CB Nick Harper
CB Rod Hood
S Donnie Nickey
S Kevin Kaesviharn
P Craig Hentrich
Now, let's look at the Titans by position and, for the sake of this article, assume next season will be uncapped.
Vince Young has two more seasons under his original contract. He's set to receive a nice option bonus in March of $4.25 million and a $7.5 million base salary in '10. Though this contract sounded outlandish in September and everyone thought VY would have to take a major cut to stay a Titan, that no longer is the case. The Titans could leave things as is, let next season play out and see if he is the long-term answer at QB. If he performs well, then the Titans can look at an extension for '11 or move on.
I suspect the Titans will want Kerry Collins to remain if he is willing to accept a backup role. With the average backup QB earning $1.93 in '09, $5.5 is far too much to pay for a #2. If Collins is willing to remain the backup and take a cut, I suspect he'll be kept. There's always the opportunity to grab a vet like Chad Pennington or look to the draft but Fisher likes his vets backing up at QB.
QBs to be UFAs: Charlie Batch, Kyle Boller, Mark Brunell, David Carr, Daunte Culpepper, A.J. Feeley, Rex Grossman, Josh McCown, Chad Pennington, Chris Redman, Brian St. Pierre.
I don't see any changes coming here. Chris Johnson is under contract though the Titans need to begin thinking extension. LenDale White will be restricted or possible trade bait. I'd consider a second-round tender and hope someone offers a three. Javon Ringer should be ready to step in as the #2 if White moves on. Alvin Pearman remains under contract but he won't be playing in two-tone blue by September if the Titans can do better. Ahmard Hall is still solid so should be going no where anytime soon.
RBs to be UFAs: Chris Brown, Kevin Faulk, Ahman Green, Verron Haynes, Edgerrin James, Willie Parker, Adrian Peterson (the Bears one), Aaron Stecker, Chester Taylor.
Bo Scaife will be a restricted free agent but, in the uncapped season, can't make less than his previous season. At $4.46 last year, it's doable but unlikely. (EDIT 1/20: It appears that Scaife will indeed be a RFA in '10 and could be paid less. The difference is that the Titans can tender him at $1.176M, but, if he were were to sign elsewhere, won't receive a draft pick in return. In order to get draft compensation, the Titans would need to franchise Scaife at 10% over his '09 salary -- Thanks to Starkiller for this info). Alge Crumpler will be a UFA and, though his blocking skills are outstanding, isn't worth much beyond that. If he's willing to accept a one-year deal, it would be good to have his leadership on the roster. But if Crump is looking for one last payday, it won't be in Tennessee. Craig Stevens needs to begin living up to his third-round draft status and needs to be ready to step into the blocking TE role Crumpler handles now. Jared Cook should make great strides from his rookie to sophomore seasons and may enter '10 as the Titans #1 TE. If the Titans decide to pass on both Scaife and Crumpler, there will be a few TEs on the market who can provide depth.
TEs to be UFAs: Anthony Becht, Dan Campbell, Darnell Dinkins, Casey Fitzsimmons, Michael Gaines, Ben Hartsock, Will Heller, Reggie Kelly, David Martin, Randy McMichael, Billy Miller, Sean Ryan, L.J. Smith, Benjamin Watson, Kris Wilson, Todd Yoder.
Here, the Titans are set. Kenny Britt faded late but produced 701 receiving yards his rookie season and looks to be the team's future #1. Nate Washington will hopefully be more consistent and Justin Gage stay healthy next season. Lavelle Hawkins needs to make a move in '10 and Dominique Edison continue to develop. The Titans may bring in a return specialist who can also provide some depth at WR but this unit is fairly set.
WRs to be UFAs: Arnaz Battle, Marty Booker, Antonio Bryant, Nate Burleson, Tim Carter, Chris Chambers, Antonio Chatman, Terrance Copper, Bobby Engram, Brian Finneran, Mike Furrey, Greg Lewis, Brandon Lloyd, Derrick Mason, Shaun McDonald, Sean Morey, Muhsin Muhammad, Kassim Osgood, Terrell Owens, Josh Reed, David Tyree, Bobby Wade, Kevin Walter, Kelley Washington, Ernest Wilford.
Tackles Michael Roos and Dave Stewart are set with long-term deals as is G Jake Scott. Where things shake up here is with C Kevin Mawae and G Eugene Amano as both will be UFAs. With Leroy Harris ready to start, it doesn't make sense to keep both. Though it's difficult to lose his leadership, I think the Titans will try to keep Amano over Mawae and let Harris move to center. But Amano would be crazy not to test the market and, to get an idea of what kind of contract offers Amano might receive, Derrick Dockery signed a five-year deal last season worth $26.4 million. Jake Scott's deal in '08 was four-years for $19.5 million.
OTs to be UFAs:
Chad Clifton, Mike Gandy, Brandon Gorin, Cornell Green, Artis Hicks, Jon Jansen, Levi Jones, Scott Kooistra, Damion McIntosh, Tony Pashos, Ephraim Salaam, Barry Sims, Mark Tauscher, Langston Walker, Mike Williams.
Gs to be UFAs - Jeremy Bridges, Damion Cook, Kynan Forney, Rex Hadnot, Ben Hamilton, Russ Hochstein, Montrae Holland, Stephen Neal, Chester Pitts, Tutan Reyes, Ryan Tucker, Keydrick Vincent, Bobbie Williams, Billy Yates.
C to be UFAs - Nick Leckey, Seth McKinney, Dennis Norman, Wade Smith, John Wade.
If uncapped, this situation becomes much more clear. DTs Tony Brown and Kevin Vickerson become restricted free agents along with DE Dave Ball. The Titans better put a high tender on TB or go ahead and get him signed long-term. DEs Kyle Vanden Bosch and Jevon Kearse are UFAs and here is where it gets tough. The "Freak" is a part of Titans history but is done. KVB hasn't been close to the player he was with Albert Haynesworth to his left but may be willing to accept a short-term deal heavy with incentives. Since he out-performed his previous contract, the Titans may be willing to oblige. Williams Hayes looks to be ready to start at LDE in '10. Jacob Ford has had his moments but I don't see him being the long-term answer at RDE. A big pass-rushing DE should be a priority on draft day regardless. Rookie DT Sen'Derrick Marks began to show potential down the stretch of the regular season but is far from being the force the Titans need in the middle. Jovan Haye was somewhat disappointing this season and has to improve. Jason Jones has had injury issues in his short career but is developing into something special.
Though many of these will be extended or see the franchise tag, there is some talent in this area which may be available.
DEs to be UFAs: Jason Babin, Alfonso Boone, Tyler Brayton, Phillip Daniels, Ryan Denney, Nick Eason, Dwan Edwards, Jarvis Green, James Hall, Reggie Hayward, Vonnie Holliday, Travis Kirschke, Leonard Little, Adewale Ogunleye, Julius Peppers, Cory Redding, Richard Seymour, Jimmy Wilkerson, Renaldo Wynn.
DTs to be UFAs: Justin Bannan, Kendrick Clancy, Marques Douglas, Jason Ferguson, Aubrayo Franklin, Casey Hampton, Tank Johnson, Jimmy Kennedy, Ryan Pickett, Fred Robbins, Bryan Robinson, Ian Scott, Kenny Smith, Hollis Thomas, Vince Wilfork, Jeff Zgonina.
This is another tough area. Keith Bulluck will be coming off ACL surgery so will be an unknown for a number of months. I doubt any team will touch him once he becomes a free agent but you never know. One thing is for sure, the Titans have to think about next season as if he won't be part of it and prepare accordingly. They may offer him a one-year deal just to see where he is after his return. Stephen Tulloch had an outstanding season and will become a restricted free agent. A long-term deal for him needs to be one of the Titans' top priorities this off-season. David Thornton also will be returning from injury and it's becoming more and more apparent that Gerald McRath may end up as the #1 next season making Thornton too expensive to keep as a backup. Standford Keglar remains an unknown commodity and needs to make a move. Jamie Winborn has another year under contract but isn't a sure thing to make the team next season.
There may be a lot of changes for the Titans at LB next season. I suspect we'll see a high pick used at LB or a player brought in via free agency.
LBs to be UFAs: Tully Banta-Cain, Bertrand Berry, Gary Brackett, Derrick Burgess, Khary Campbell, Brandon Chillar, Vinny Ciurciu, Danny Clark, Angelo Crowell, Karlos Dansby, Chris Draft, Larry Foote, Ryan Fowler, Scott Fujita, Tony Gilbert, Nick Greisen, Larry Izzo, Aaron Kampman, Paris Lenon, D.D. Lewis, Darrell McClover, Chike Okeafor, Junior Seau, Jason Taylor, Chaun Thompson, Pisa Tinoisamoa, Jeremiah Trotter, Jeff Ulbrich, Mike Vrabel, Tracy White, Matt Wilhelm, Sam Williams.
Cortland Finnegan is locked up until the end of the '11 season but the #2 CB spot is wide open and should be the Titans #1 priority to fill. Nick Harper becomes a UFA and likely will not return. With only rookies Ryan Mouton and Jason McCourty entering their second season, depth remains a major issue here. Despite the obvious decline in Harper's coverage skills, he may be a bargain to sign for one season for depth until the Titans can see how much the rookies have improved or if they can find help via free agency. I don't see the Titans starting anyone they draft in April so the starting #2 CB will probably be Mouton, McCourty or a free agent. Rod Hood also becomes a free agent and may be offered a one-year deal to prove in camp he's worth a roster spot but I don't see him as starting material. Vincent Fuller is solid and safely under contract.
Both Michael Griffin and Chris Hope had disappointing years a year removed from Pro Bowl seasons and depth is also thin at safety. Donnie Nickey and Kevin Kaesviharn both are UFAs and, if the Titans want them, both should be available. Nickey has been solid on special teams and will be offered a deal. The Titans should look to the draft safety talent they can develop to eventually replace Hope and improve special teams next season.
CBs to be UFAs: Dre' Bly, Leigh Bodden, Ralph Brown, Demarcus Faggins, Travis Fisher, Walt Harris, Anthony Henry, William James, Nate Jones, Ken Lucas, Hank Poteat, Keiwan Ratliff, Dunta Robinson, Allen Rossum, Benny Sapp, DeShea Townsend, Frank Walker, Dante Wesley, Brian Williams.
S to be UFAa: Will Allen, Mike Brown, Tyrone Carter, Ryan Clark, Nick Ferguson, Todd Johnson, Sean Jones, Ty Law, Marquand Manuel, Lawyer Milloy, Jermaine Phillips, Pierson Prioleau, Mark Roman, Brian Russell, Bryan Scott, Darren Sharper, Matt Ware, Roy Williams.
Rob Bironas is locked up and Brett Kern did a good job filling in for Craig Hentrich who will likely retire. The issue here is finding both kick and punt returners. Coach Fisher may give Ryan Mouton another shot but the Titans also need to look to free agency and the draft to find help here. Ideally, a returner could also be someone who can provide some depth at CB or WR as well. Ken Amato has been a solid long-snapper and should be retained with a reasonable deal.
Before anyone looks at these free agency lists and gets excited, don't forget each team will have three franchise tags next season. This list will be depleted quickly in February so don't look for many difference-makers to hit the market this off-season. The first two weeks of free agency will be insane as teams will overpay for mediocre talent. We know the Titans are not likely to be in the mix and will wait for the dust to settle. This means the Titans need to have another solid draft and coach up players already on the roster. General Manager Mike Reinfeldt will fill some holes and look to upgrade a few areas as the Titans do each season but we won't see a Julius Peppers or Vince Wilfork in two-toned blue next fall. What will be interesting to watch is whether or not teams go after some of the restricted free agents or look to trade talent.
At this point, I think we'll see the Titans focus on finding a solid #2 CB via free agency which will be a challenge. I could also see bringing in a LB to step in if Bulluck isn't part of the team next season. Finding a pass-rushing DE via free agency should also be a priority but I won't hold my breath. Not to be forgotten is the need for a returner. If the Titans can add a couple of players through free agency before the draft, it'll give them more flexibility to pick the best player on the board. Keep in mind that many of the players who become restricted next year due to the uncapped season will become UFAs the following season. That's going to create a number of holes that the Titans need to address in this year's draft.
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