The Tennessee Titans will soon be busy combing through game film of the 2016 season and begin the process of determining which pieces fit for 2017. As part of that, Titans general manager Jon Robinson and head coach Mike Mularkey will have to decide the fate of 14 unrestricted free agents and whether or not they want to keep them going forward.
Here is TitanInsider’s first look at those unrestricted free agents and our assessment of what could happen this off-season with those players.
Linebacker David Bass: Was well regarded as a special teams player and backup outside linebacker for his first season and a half after being picked up off waivers in 2015. However, late in the year, he was scratched in favor of rookie Aaron Wallace. Chance of returning: Unlikely.
Tackle Byron Bell: Was ticketed to be the Titans’ third tackle until felled by a broken leg in off-season work that required surgery and cost him the entire season. With the acquisition of Dennis Kelly, the Titans probably don’t have a spot for Bell anymore. Chance of returning: Unlikely.
Cornerback Valentino Blake: A scapegoat of fans, coaches seemed to trust him more than the paid customers did. Played for Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh, which was part of the reason he joined the Titnas. Still, if the secondary gets its expected overhaul, the Titans could well move on from Blake as part of the upgrade. Chance of returning: Unlikely.
Quarterback Matt Cassel: Showed he could do OK as a stop-gap in the season finale, despite very little work throughout the season. Could he retire? Yes. Could he come back? Yes to that, too. And yes, he could land elsewhere in 2017. Something tells me that Mike Mularkey is comfortable with having some type of veteran in the QB room. Chance of returning: Possible.
Tight end Anthony Fasano: Filled in pretty well as the blocking tight end after Craig Stevens’ sudden retirement. A player that Mularkey coached and likes. There is the temptation to get younger at the tight end position, but Fasano is a seasoned pro and could end up coming back on a one or two-year deal. Chance of returning: Quite possible.
Safety Rashad Johnson: Was a stopgap player who served his purpose in the safety rotation and as a mentor to younger DBs like Kevin Byard and LeShaun Sims. If he comes back, it would only be as a backup and probably at the veteran minimum. Chance of returning: Unlikely.
Defensive end Karl Klug: The blue-collar pass rusher is very highly thought of and well liked inside the organization. His season ended prematurely with a torn Achilles, but Mularkey said he should be ready to go by the time OTAs begin. That should be a clue that the Titans want him back, and coming off an injury the outside market won’t be as strong. Chance of returning: Very likely.
Wide receiver Marc Mariani: Brought in to secure the return position after the surprise release of Dexter McCluster. The Titans want to become more explosive in the return game, meaning they could move on from the long-time fan favorite. Chance of returning: Unlikely.
Linebacker Nate Palmer: Claimed off waivers from the Packers, Palmer played mostly on special teams and saw a few snaps as a backup inside linebacker. If he returns, it would be because the Titans value him as a special teamer. Chance of returning: Possible.
Center Brian Schwenke: A former starting center, Schwenke adjusted well to being a backup there and at guard, which he had not played since college. Moving to backup role allowed him to avoid the injury bug that had plagued him I past year. Quality offensive line depth is hard to find, and the Titans might be inclined to re-up him. Chance of returning: Possible.
Linebacker Sean Spence: Another player with ties to LeBeau and the Steelers, Spence became a nickel inside linebacker, something the Titans might hunt in the draft. Had a decent, but unspectacular season, so if the Titans don’t find a better option, he could be an option again. Chance of returning: Possible.
Safety Daimion Stafford: A special teams captain and part of the Titans safety rotation, he could be moved aside if the expected overhaul in the secondary comes about. Better as a run stuffer than in coverage. Chance of returning: Unlikely.
Guard Chance Warmack: The 2013 first-round pick didn’t endear himself to the organization when he opted for finger surgery after week two when the Titans said he could have played through the injury with a cast on his hand. He didn’t live up to expectations as the 10th pick in the draft, so perhaps a fresh start would be better for all involved. Chance of returning: Zero.
Receiver Kendall Wright: The 2012 first-round pick pretty much said his goodbyes and spoke of his intentions to find a new team in free agency the day after the season ended. His numbers have dropped in three straight years following 94 catches in 2013. In the right system with the right QB, Wright could still be effective. Chance of returning: Zero.