The Tennessee Titans made their cut to 53 players, and there were a few surprises among the moves.
The Titans cleared out the bottom of the roster at wide receiver – waiving both return man Eric Weems and Tre McBride and placing second-year man Tajae Sharpe on injured reserve with a recurrence of the foot injury he suffered in June.
The Titans will still tinker with the roster, as they will sift through the cuts of other teams in search of back-of-the-roster upgrades.
“The roster is not completely set yet. We’re still in some discussions on some things,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said.
Weems, was brought in for special teams help as a free agent, but lost out on the return spot to rookie Adoree’ Jackson, who will likely handle both kickoffs and punts for now. Weems signed a two-year, $2.6 million deal to leave the Falcons in the off-season. Mularkey hinted that the Titans might bring the veteran special teamer back. The most likely scenario there would be in week two when his salary would no longer be guaranteed.
“We like Eric. We’re not done with our roster yet. We’re making some decisions, and hopefully, we’ll have him back if we can,” Mularkey said.
McBride’s ticket onto the roster was also special teams, but his issue throughout preseason was consistency.
“He’s a very competitive player. It was a tough decision,” he said.
As for Sharpe, Mularkey said he injured his foot again against the Chiefs. Surgery might not be required, but Mularkey said he felt it was best that to shut him down.
“We felt like this was in his best interest of his career to make sure that he is completely healthy before we put him back out there,” Mularkey said of Sharpe.
The Titans also waived tight end Jace Amaro, along with Jerome Cunningham and Tim Semisch in final cuts, leaving them with only three on the roster in Delanie Walker, Phillip Supernaw and rookie Jonnu Smith.
The Titans found a way to keep Alex Tanney as the third quarterback, placing him on injured reserve with a broken foot.
“He broke his foot. It was serious enough that we put him on IR today. By being on injured reserve, it will be for the season, so he will be here,” Mularkey said.
Tennessee will go with two quarterbacks after releasing Tyler Ferguson as well.
As expected, David Fluellen won the third running back job, beating out seventh-round pick Khalfani Muhammad and Akeem Judd.
The Titans kept Dennis Kelly, Tim Lelito and rookie Corey Levin as the backups on the offensive line, parting ways with Tyler Marz, who spent last year on the practice squad and could wind up there again. Seventh-round pick Brad Seaton also was cut.
On the defensive side of the ball, the biggest surprises came in a deep defensive line with Angelo Blackson, a fourth-round pick in 2015, and Antwaun Woods among the releases. A Friday night trade that landed David King from the Chiefs probably spelled the end for Blackson.
“You can say we swapped out, but that wasn’t the intent. We were just trying to add depth at that position on the roster,” Mularkey said.
Mularkey called the release of Woods “really tough. It was one of the longer discussions that we had.”
Woods’ not playing on special teams factored in, though the Titans are hopeful of having him back on the practice squad.
The Titans were heavy at linebacker, keeping 11, including rookie edge rusher Josh Carraway and Aaron Wallace behind starters Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan, as well as backups Erik Walden and Kevin Dodd.
In the secondary, Tye Smith pulled the upset, beating out Demontre Hurst, another free agent signing to win a backup cornerback spot. Smith spent last season on the practice squads of the Seahawks and Redskins, before signing a futures contract in Tennessee in January.
The Titans also kept Kalan Reed and Curtis Riley, who can play both cornerback and safety.
Mularkey cited Reed, Mr. Irrelevant as the last pick of 2016, as an example of a patient player who spent time on the practice squad last year and improved to make the 53-man roster this year.
“Kalan was our example of a guy who was patient, used the process, worked hard on the practice squad when he had his chances,” Mularkey said., “This off-season and training camp, he’s had some good snaps for us.”