Titans Rumors

Ex-Titans GM: Manning Pursuit Was Costly

  • Peyton Manning has said years ago he was close to signing with the Titans, but the Broncos won out for the future Hall of Fame quarterback. Discussing the fallout from Manning’s 2012 free agency, ex-Titans exec Mike Reinfeldt said the acclaimed passer’s timetable affected the Titans’ plans. “The only thing I wished had happened was that Peyton could have made the decision earlier,” Reinfeldt said, via The Athletic’s Mike Sando. “But I don’t know that he was in position to do so because of his health. … There is no magic way to build a team, but what you can’t do is get caught in between one plan and the other plan. That is what happened to us.” The Titans earmarking Manning money during the first week of free agency, and then waiting on the ex-Colt’s decision, caused them to miss out on pursuits of Mario Williams and Pro Bowl guards Carl Nicks and Ben Grubbs, with Sando adding each was a target of then-GM Ruston Webster. Tennessee finished 6-10 in 2012 and would not post a winning season again until 2016.

Titans Add NFL Exec Adolpho Birch To Front Office

The Titans made a move to add a longtime NFL executive to their front office. They hired Adolpho Birch as a senior vice president and chief legal officer.

Birch spent 24 years working for the NFL, most recently as a senior VP in charge of labor policy and league affairs. This will mark a homecoming for the veteran exec; Birch is a Nashville native.

The Harvard graduate played roles in helping the NFL form its personal conduct and drug policies while also working with the CBA. He will join a Titans front office that includes GM Jon Robinson and VP of player personnel Ryan Cowden.

This news comes a month after longtime Titans president Steve Underwood retired, ending a 40-year run with the franchise. The Titans elevated Burke Nihill to the president/CEO role. Birch’s experience could make him a fit for this position at some point.

Titans Sign Rookie QB Cole McDonald

The Titans have inked seventh-round quarterback Cole McDonald, according to Jim Wyatt of the team website (Twitter link). Per the terms of his slot, the University of Hawaii product will receive a four-year, $3.4MM deal with a ~$101K signing bonus. 

Last year, McDonald finished third in the nation in passing yards. Hawaii’s aggressive offensive scheme had a lot to do with that, but the Titans also saw some pro potential in the youngster. Now, he’ll try to make the cut behind Ryan Tannehill and try to push Logan Woodside for the QB2 role.

With McDonald in the fold, it’s three down and three to go for the Titans. Here’s the full rundown of their draft class, via PFR’s 2020 NFL Draft Tracker:

Tennessee Titans

1-29: Isaiah Wilson, T (Georgia)
2-61: Kristian Fulton, CB (LSU)
3-93: Darrynton Evans, RB (Appalachian State)
5-174: Larrell Murchison, DT (N.C. State): Signed
7-224: Cole McDonald, QB (Hawaii): Signed
7-243: Chris Jackson, S (Marshall): Signed

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colin Kaepernick NFL Return Gaining Steam?

Although Colin Kaepernick has not played since the 2016 season, the quarterback has remained a fixture in NFL news cycles for most of his free agency stay. And momentum appears to be growing for the former 49ers passer to receive another opportunity.

In discussing Kaepernick with some NFL head coaches, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport indicates there is “far, far more interest” in the 32-year-old passer now than there probably has been since he became a free agent in March 2017 (video link). While a few hurdles would remain — particularly in this coronavirus-marred offseason — Rapoport adds that teams’ interest in Kaepernick for a backup job is “very real.”

It has been well-documented the former Super Bowl starter has received only one opportunity to visit a team; that came with the Seahawks in 2017. Pete Carroll said he now regrets not signing him at that point but added that his team is content at quarterback now. Although a handful of teams stayed in Atlanta for the NFL-organized workout Kaepernick rearranged at the 11th hour last fall, no franchise has brought in the polarizing free agent since the Seahawks did so in during the summer of 2017.

Kaepernick had drifted off the NFL radar to a degree after his workout last year, but the worldwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality over the past three weeks have reignited the push for the player that started the NFL protests on this front to receive another chance. Roger Goodell called for Kaepernick to be given another opportunity this week.

It will take a team to make that happen, and much like Cam Newton, Kaepernick would likely have to wait until free agents are allowed to visit teams to have the chance to sign anywhere. That window may not open until late July, when training camps begin. That said, recent Jets signee Joe Flacco is not expected to be recovered from neck surgery until at least September. Newton would rank higher on quarterback-needy teams’ pecking orders than Kaepernick, but the former MVP profiles more as a starter — potentially if a team’s QB1 suffers an injury. Kaepernick interest appears to be contingent on a backup gig.

One of the teams connected to Newton this offseason discussed Kaepernick on Wednesday. Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said (via Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com) Kaepernick would fit his system but added that such an opportunity would likely be contingent on an emergency-type situation (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Andrew Siciliano). Lynn said he has not spoken with Kaepernick.

While ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler notes (via Twitter) the Chargers have come up around the league as a potential Kaepernick fit, joining the Titans in that regard, Lynn said he was happy with the three quarterbacks he has. The Bolts — they of a Tyrod TaylorJustin HerbertEaston Stick QB depth chart — having passed on Newton earlier this year provides a pretty good indication they are content at quarterback for the time being.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Titans Still Undecided On Defensive Playcaller

The Titans lost defensive coordinator Dean Pees to retirement in January, and the team opted against replacing him with a new DC. However, someone will need to call the plays, and it’s presently unclear exactly who that someone will be.

Even head coach Mike Vrabel doesn’t know at the moment. As Jim Wyatt of the team’s official website tweets, Vrabel says that there will be one playcaller, and he is still deciding who will be tasked with that responsibility. Outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen is one possibility, and there were rumors in the wake of Pees’ retirement that Bowen would be elevated to defensive coordinator. While that did not happen, Bowen could still find himself with an increased role.

Indeed, Albert Breer of SI.com notes (via Twitter) that Bowen is on the “coordinator track,” and Vrabel said that Bowen will be the team’s defensive voice when Vrabel is managing his other units (Twitter link via Wyatt). New inside linebackers coach Jim Haslett could also be an option, given his lengthy track record as an NFL DC.

Of course, the odds-on favorite to call plays is Vrabel himself, who has experience doing exactly that as defensive coordinator with the Texans in 2017. After all, if he was going to delegate that responsibility, one would think he would have announced it by now.

Whoever the playcaller is will be charged with getting the most out of a middling unit that was about average in 2019 in terms of DVOA and below average in terms of yards allowed. The team is still in the mix for Jadeveon Clowney, but there has been no recent movement on that front.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Titans’, Browns’ Pursuit Of Jadeveon Clowney

Nothing like another Jadeveon Clowney story to ring in the weekend. The former No. 1 overall pick remains unsigned, with the Titans, Browns, and — perhaps to a lesser extent — Seahawks representing the most likely landing spots.

The Titans have reportedly made multiple offers to Clowney, but obviously those offers were unappealing to a player who was said to be seeking a lucrative multi-year pact worth around $20MM per year when the offseason began. Tennessee GM Jon Robinson had previously acknowledged that he discussed a contract with Clowney’s camp, but there have been no talks between the two sides for awhile.

In a conference call with reporters yesterday, Robinson said, “No conversations of recent. I think we’re going to continue to monitor it and see where [it goes]. I’ve seen what you guys have seen that’s been posted on social media. I know he wants to play. I think we would be a pretty good fit for him, and there was some mutual interest there when we started the discussion, but I would say that really hasn’t grown any legs since we spoke last” (h/t Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk).

The Titans have always looked like a good fit given the presence of head coach Mike Vrabel — the Texans’ LB coach and defensive coordinator during Clowney’s first four years in Houston — and given the club’s need for another pass rusher. The team did take a flier on Vic Beasley and will return Harold Landry, who posted nine sacks in a promising sophomore effort in 2019, but Clowney could provide a major boost to the Titans’ defensive front.

As for the Browns, we last heard that they recently floated an offer that would have paid Clowney $12MM/year in base salary, but in the story linked above, Williams cites a report indicating that Cleveland has also put forth a one-year, $18MM proposal. It’s unclear if that’s accurate or a typo, as Williams may simply have intended to reference the $12MM/year report. If Cleveland really did offer one year at $18MM, roughly the amount that Clowney would have made if Seattle had been willing and able to use the franchise tag, he should probably snap it up.

For his part, though, Clowney has said he is willing to be patient and does not feel rushed to sign before teams have the opportunity to look at him in person and evaluate his medicals. Given the gradual return to normalcy throughout the country, that may happen sooner rather than later.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Titans, Derrick Henry Discussing Deal

The Titans have more than a month to reach an extension agreement with Derrick Henry, but they are not putting off talks until the deadline nears — a common franchise tag practice.

GM Jon Robinson confirmed he has engaged in talks with Henry’s agent over the past two weeks, according to TitanInsider.com’s Terry McCormick (on Twitter). The most recent call occurred this week.

This represents a positive development for these parties. The Titans slapped the tag on Henry in March, and the reigning rushing champion signed it in April. Should Henry and the Titans not agree to the long-term deal both sides prefer by July 15, the fifth-year back is locked into a $10.278MM salary.

Tennessee drafted Appalachian State’s Darrynton Evans in the third round but remains intent on signing Henry to an extension. Evans may cut into Henry’s workload more than Dion Lewis did last year, but that could be a bonus for the bruising back’s longevity. This will be Henry’s age-26 season.

Henry is coming off one of the better contract years in recent memory, tacking two dominant playoff performances — in road wins over the Patriots and Ravens — onto his rushing championship. The former second-round pick has been one of the league’s best backs over the past season and change, beginning his breakout late in the 2018 campaign.

Henry also profiles as one of numerous extension-eligible running backs around the league, joining the stacked class of 2017 along with Cardinals transition-tagged back Kenyan Drake and 2018 UDFA Phillip Lindsay among key backs now up for new deals. Henry’s will be a key piece on an uncertain market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Make-Or-Break Year: Titans WR Corey Davis

We recently profiled Bengals receiver John Ross as a make-or-break player as he enters the final year of his rookie deal, and today we’ll look at one of his draftmates, Titans WR Corey Davis. Like Ross, Davis saw his fifth-year option declined earlier this year, which puts him on track for unrestricted free agency following the 2020 season.

Davis, the No. 5 overall pick of the 2017 draft, entered the league after a dominant collegiate career with Western Michigan. Over his sophomore to senior seasons, Davis averaged 88 catches for 1,448 receiving yards and 15 TDs, and while his level of competition in the MAC was not what it might have been in a Power Five conference, that type of production is tough to ignore. And when it comes packaged in a 6-3, 209-lb physical specimen, it’s easy to see why Tennessee pulled the trigger.

Unfortunately for Davis and the Titans, the 25-year-old has been unable to replicate that production in the pros. The all-time NCAA leader in receiving yards has just 1,867 yards in his first three NFL seasons, and after scoring 52 total TDs through the air in college – good for second-most in NCAA history – Davis has found paydirt just six times with Tennessee.

Though he has never suffered a major injury, a variety of smaller ailments may have prevented him from reaching his potential. He was unable to participate in drills during the 2017 scouting combine due to an ankle injury, and his rookie season was hampered by a hamstring injury. He managed to stay healthy in 2018, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that he posted career highs in receptions (65) yards (891) and receiving TDs (four). He led the team in all three categories, and though his catch rate was not particularly impressive – those 65 catches came on 112 targets – he appeared to be poised for a breakout.

Last season, however, Davis battled hip issues and saw rookie A.J. Brown emerge as the team’s leading receiver. Davis finished with just 43 catches for 601 yards and two scores, so Tennessee really had no choice but to decline the fifth-year option. That option would have been guaranteed for injury only but would have been worth nearly $16MM, so the Titans could not take that chance.

Given his pedigree, Davis will almost surely get another NFL opportunity in 2021 even if he continues to underwhelm in 2020. But a disappointing effort this season will likely lead to a one-year, prove-it deal next year, whereas a strong campaign could secure him a multi-year payday with a great deal of guaranteed money.

Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith recently sung Davis’ praises, saying, “[t]here were some huge explosive plays (last year) that Corey was the unsung hero to. He’s a big part of this offense and I think he’ll take another step.”

A full season with the resurgent Ryan Tannehill could help, though Davis did not perform any better last season with Tannehill under center than he did with Marcus Mariota. The Titans did not select a receiver in this year’s draft, so Davis will continue to start opposite Brown, with Adam Humphries in the slot. If he’s not careful, this could be his last year as an unquestioned starter, so it will be incumbent upon him to make the most of that opportunity and start realizing all of the promise that made him a top-five pick three years ago.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Titans' Casey On Trade To Broncos

After spending nine seasons the Titans, defensive tackle Jurrell Casey felt entirely disrespected when he was traded to the Broncos in exchange for a seventh-round pick earlier this year. “For us to get to that point to get better and to be a main focus of that and then you just throw me away to the trash like I wasn’t a main block of that, especially coming off an injury the year before and playing the whole season for ya’ll,” Casey tells Terry McCormick of TitansInsider.com. “No complaints, I did everything you wanted me to do and you throw me like a piece of trash.” Tennessee shopped Casey before trading him, per McCormick, and moved on him from largely due to his upcoming salary. But Casey says he wasn’t aware of any trade talks until roughly 30 seconds before the deal was finalized.

Titans Notes: Henry, Davis, QB

While speculation swirls about the Titans and a potential Jadeveon Clowney signing, here’s the latest on the players who are actually on Tennessee’s roster:

  • Last year, Derrick Henry led the league in both carries (303) and rushing yards (1,540). This year, he’ll likely be looking at a reduced workload. Tennessee’s offense will benefit “if more guys are touching the ball,” Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith says (Twitter link via Michael Giardi of NFL.com). If a significant number of those touches figure to go to third-round rookie Darrynton Evans, Henry’s future earnings could be impacted. Unless the Titans and Derrick Henry come to terms on an extension between now and the July 15 deadline, the running back will be on course for free agency in 2021. It’s worth mentioning that a lighter workload may actually benefit Henry as teams tend to fret about RB odometers.
  • Corey Davis‘ future with the Titans is also in limbo, but Smith tells the team website that he likes what he’s seen out of the wide receiver thus far. “There were some huge explosive plays (last year) that Corey was the unsung hero to,” Smith said. “He’s a big part of this offense and I think he’ll take another step. I feel very confident in Corey, A.J. and Adam (Humphries) and that group.” The Titans, as expected, turned down Davis’ fifth-year option in May. Through three pro seasons, Davis has just six touchdowns to his credit.
  • There’s been talk of the Titans adding a veteran backup quarterback, but Smith suggested that the QB2 job will go to either Logan Woodside or Cole McDonald, depending on how the camp competition unfolds.