For the first time since 2018, the Tennessee Titans missed out on the playoffs in 2023. It was a run that included a trip to the 2019 AFC Championship Game and home playoff games in 2020 and 2021 for the first time since 2008. However, that era of Titans football seems to have come crashing to earth in 2022, as the team finished a paltry 7-10, their first losing record since 2015.
There are some major changes needed, though new general manager Ran Carthon insists he doesn’t believe a full-on rebuild is necessary in the Music City. That doesn’t change the calculus all that much, it just means we only have to look at three major fixes today rather than about 20.
So let’s take a look at the Titans and their current situation, and what 3 areas they need to improve on first.
3. Salary Cap
Currently, as things stand the Titans sit just over $28 million over the salary cap for next season. This, however, is probably the easiest of the three fixes on the to-do list. Releasing just four players would give the Titans $20 million in cap space to work with in free agency, with those players being Taylor Lewan ($14.8 million), Bud Dupree ($9.3 million), Zach Cunningham ($8.9 million) and Robert Woods ($12 million). It’s also expected that star defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons will earn his big contract this offseason, so one would expect that contract to be worked in a way that frees up additional cap space, and the same could happen for star safety Kevin Byard.
It’s worth mentioning, as unlikely as it is, that cutting Ryan Tannehill would free up an additional $17.8 million, but any savings would likely be outweighed by the cost of his replacement.
2. Left Tackle
This is a problem that more than likely will be solved through the draft. Taylor Lewan is expected to be cut, as he himself has noted in the past, so the Titans need a starting left tackle, and they need one bad. Lewan’s replacement when he went down with an ACL tear, Dennis Daley, had one of the worst statistical pass-blocking seasons in NFL history.
This is where the offseason comes in. There aren’t any game-changing tackles expected to hit the free-agent market, so the Titans will have to look to a rookie to be their long-term fix. Some mocks have the Titans taking someone like Ohio State’s Paris Johnson with their 11th overall pick, and that’s the mold of player the Titans need to be looking at.
This is the big one and the one that may not be able to be solved this off-season. The Tennessee Titans just don’t know who their long-term quarterback is. Ryan Tannehill is a bucket full of question marks at the moment, especially for a team with Super Bowl ambitions like the Titans say they are. Malik Willis looked completely out of his depth at best at the NFL level in 2023. Josh Dobbs looked serviceable in his two starts at the tail end of the year, but will never be the franchise guy.
So what do you do? As mentioned, cutting Tannehill saves some cap space, but who do you go after? Do you run it back with Dobbs and Willis and think to yourself that worst case scenario they both flop, you’ll be terrible enough to potentially be in the Caleb Williams sweepstakes?
Do you sell the farm to trade up for either Bryce Young or CJ Stroud? Do you try and land Aaron Rodgers as a mercenary?
The likelihood is this. The Titans will keep Ryan Tannehill, and re-evaluate things, especially surrounding Malik Willis, next offseason. There’s always the prospect of a major move, but recent history suggests the Titans aren’t going to do that kind of thing, though who knows what might happen with new general manager Ran Carthon in charge.