Tennessee Titans: Trying to Forget That Ugly Ending
The Titans' 2008 season ranks as one of the greatest in team history. After a couple of years of either just making or just missing the playoffs, the Titans took a big step forward, finishing the season with the NFL's best record (13-3). Rookie running back Chris Johnson emerged as a big-play threat and Kerry Collins not only took over the starting quarterback job from Vince Young but proved that he has some life left in his arm.
But all of that was flushed away in a disappointing playoff loss to the Ravens. Tennessee actually outplayed Baltimore in most areas, but costly mistakes and the team's inability to run the ball after Johnson got hurt meant that a couple of big plays were enough to send Tennessee to an earlier than expected exit.
Tennessee has plenty of cap room, but with Albert Haynesworth and Collins headed to free agency, the Titans have some work to do. Tennessee franchised tight end Bo Scaife and re-upped kicker Rob Bironas last week to lock up two more potential key free agents.
Free Agents: Restricted: LB Charles Bennett, CB Chris Carr, QB Kerry Collins, S Vincent Fuller, DT Albert Haynesworth, P Craig Hentrich, CB Reynaldo Hill, WR Brandon Jones, CB Eric King, OL Daniel Loper, WR Justin McCareins, CB Tyrone Poole, QB Chris Simms.
Draft Picks: 1 (30); 2 (30); 3 (30); 4 (30); 5 (30); 6 (30), 7 (30)
1. Quarterback. It's likely that the Titans will figure out a way to bring Collins back, but if someone else can induce Collins to leave in free agency, Tennessee is in trouble. Owner Bud Adams keeps talking about how Young is still the team's quarterback of the future, but it's hard to see how he can retake that role without some serious maturation--teammates won't forget how he tried to quit on the team last season.
2. Wide Receiver. Justin Gage has proven himself as a legitimate starting wide receiver. But he doesn't have any company. Justin McCareins was arguably the worst starting receiver in the league last year, while Brandon Jones has run out of time to prove he can turn his physical skills into game production. Ideally, Tennessee will add one veteran and one young receiver to give Collins, Young or whoever is the Titans quarterback some targets who can get open and catch the ball--something Tennessee didn't have in 2008.
3. Defensive line depth? The Titans had one of the best defensive lines in the league last year. If Haynesworth leaves for a gigantic contract in free agency, it's not possible to simply plug in a replacement and expect to not take a hit. But Jason Jones, a 2008 draftee, showed that he is ready to step in and start if needed. What Tennessee will need if Haynesworth leaves is some depth to allow the Titans to continue to rotate front fours like they did last year. But if Haynesworth does come back, Tennessee's line should be even better in 2009 than it was in 2008.