Now that free agency could be on the verge of giving way to draft evaluation, let’s do a quick review of what Tennessee has added in the off-season and how those pieces might fit into the puzzle o the 2016 Titans. We’ll call this our Titans Free Agency Guide for Dummies, although we realize that all of our readers are highly intelligent and we thank you for any and all support!
Tight end Craig Stevens: The Titans kept Stevens on an affordable one-year deal and he will be back for another season doing what he has done for years, blocking a lot and catching a few passes as an under the radar receiver.
Cornerback Brice McCain: McCain was the first of several players with Steelers connections to Dick LeBeau to sign on this year. He had his best season under LeBeau in 2014 before going to Miami last year. McCain figures to be the leader in the clubhouse for the nickelback role in camp.
Running back Antonio Andrews: He had little leverage as an exclusive rights free agent, other than to sign the offer made. Andrews figures to compete for a backup role now with Bishop Sankey, David Cobb and Dexter McCluster behind the Titans new workhorse back. Which leads us to ….
Running back DeMarco Murray: Acquired from the Eagles for virtually nothing (a move down 13 spots in the fourth round of the draft), the Titans are banking that they are getting the running back closer to what Murray was in Dallas two years ago with more than 1,800 yards than the disgruntled (indications are he was far from the only unhappy camper at Camp Kelly) runner he was in Philly. If he has something left, he will solve a big issue for the Titans at running back.
Center Ben Jones: Known for his crazy antics like drinking his own urine and eating bugs, Jones comes in to anchor the middle of the Titans offensive line, a position that has been an issue since Kevin Mawae retired. Jones’ arrival puts Brian Schwenke and Andy Gallik on notice that they could be competing for one backup spot, though each of them getting into the left guard mix isn’t out of the question.
Quarterback Matt Cassel: A head-scratcher initially, especially given Cassel’s struggles last season in Dallas. But the Titans apparently want a veteran sounding board for Marcus Mariota. It also suggests that the current regime may not be as sold on Zach Mettenberger as Ken Whisenhunt was. Mettenberger’s 0-10 record isn’t all on him, but he will face a challenge now to keep the No. 2 spot in camp.
Wide receiver Rishard Matthews: Matthews’ addition feels a little bit like the signing of Nate Washington several years ago. He is a young receiver entering his second contract and looking for a bigger role. He probably isn’t a No.1 type guy, but if he be a solid No. 2 in the vein of what Washington was, the Titans will be pleased with their investment.
Defensive tackle Al Woods: One of the Titans’ own free agents they brought back into the fold. Woods and Sammie Hill both were free agents, and Tennessee kept Woods, who had worked with LeBeau in Pittsburgh. Chances are, the Titans will draft another nose tackle to play behind Woods for now and eventually be his successor.
Linebacker Sean Spence: Another of the Pittsburgh South contingent coming from the Steelers, Spence provides much-needed depth at the inside linebacker spot. There is even the chance that he could challenge Wesley Woodyard to start alongside Avery Williamson with a strong camp an preseason.
Cornerback Antwon Blake: Blake was developing as a solid role player in Pittsburgh under LeBeau in 2013 and ’14 after being claimed off waivers from the Jaguars. He struggled last year in Pittsburgh after LeBeau left, but the Titans are hoping LeBeau can get him back on track.
Tackle Byron Bell: Bell split most of his time between right tackle and left guard (plus one game for an injured Taylor Lewan at left tackle). Chances are, his re-upping with the Titans is as a backup at both tackle and guard, especially if the Titans draft Laremy Tunsil first overall or select a right tackle in round two or three on draft weekend.