Under first-year head coach Mike Vrabel, the Tenneessee Titans finished 9-7 and narrowly missed the playoffs in the 2018 NFL season. Running back Derrick Henry enjoyed a sensational second half of the season, but the rest of the offense performed poorly. Quarterback Marcus Mariota threw just 11 touchdown passes compared to eight interceptions. Mariota is in the final year of his rookie contract, and will make nearly $21 million in 2019. He has a lot to prove next season if he is to earn a new deal from the Titans. To do that, he will need the talent around him to be improved.
Tennessee’s offensive rankings in 2018 were abysmal: 25th in total yards, 29th in passing, and 27th in points. Yet, offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur was awarded a head coaching position in Green Bay for his efforts. New offensive coordinator Arthur Smith will need more weapons to work with, and that’s where the offseason comes in. Here are three wide receivers Tennessee should target.
1. John Brown
2017, fifth overall pick Corey Davis had a solid but not great 2018 season. He was certainly affected by the absence of star tight end Delanie Walker, but even with Walker’s return, Davis will need more help. Former Baltimore Raven John Brown is one of the NFL’s premier deep threats, and he would do much to open up the Titans’ offense.
Last season, Brown caught 42 passes for 715 yards and four touchdowns. He earned just $5 million in 2018, so he would likely be the cheapest player on this list. He turns 29 in April, so a three-year deal worth 17 to 20 million dollars seems fair. He has a reputation as a deep threat, but his route running is extremely underrated. Even if he isn’t putting up great stats, he would at least draw attention away from Tennessee’s other weapons. Brown would make it much more difficult for defenses to sell out to stop the run.
2. Adam Humphries
In 2018, Humphries proved to be one of the league’s best slot receivers. He hauled in 76 of his 105 targets for 816 yards and five scores. He will likely command over $10 million per year, and could receive a four or five-season deal. His route running is superb, and his short-area quickness makes him hard for bigger defensive backs and linebackers to keep up with. Mariota enjoys using his legs to extend plays, and adding Humphries would give him a dependable weapon on third down.
3. Tyrell Williams
Save the best for last: The crown jewel of 2019’s free-agent WR class, Williams is set to return to a feature role with his new team. His best season came in 2016, when he was Philip Rivers’ primary target. He had 69 receptions for 1,059 yards and five TDs. He played third wheel to Keenan Allen and Mike Williams in 2017 and 2018, but he still produced well as a secondary option. His 6-4, 205-pound frame makes him a good red zone target, and he has sub-4.5 speed, making him a threat down the field. He has shown strong hands and the ability to fight through traffic for the ball.
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) October 14, 2018
Williams is going to be expensive, but if he is used correctly, he will be worth it. The team that signs him will almost certainly do so with the intention of making him a first or second option, and the Titans are no different.
It’s time to figure out whether Marcus Mariota is a franchise QB. By signing one of these receivers, the Titans will be giving Mariota an ultimatum. As long as he stays healthy, he will have no excuses for another subpar season. Whether he is hampered by injuries again or underforms, at least Tennessee will know it needs to find a new QB. The worst situation a team can be in is paying a mediocre QB top dollar, and the Titans must avoid doing that at all costs. Regardless of whether Mariota is the guy, Tennessee needs better weapons, and any of these three players would be a big upgrade.