New Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton just gained another estimable chip for a defense that has been on the upswing. On Friday morning, the Titans announced that they had agreed to terms with former Denver Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard on a four-year, $16 million deal. An undrafted free agent out of Kentucky, Woodyard became an indispensable part of Denver's defense with his ability to do just about everything expected of a linebacker at a very high level -- tackle with anticipation, cover tight ends and slot receivers, and rush the passer -- all at multiple positions.
Through six seasons in Denver, Woodyard played in 87 games, starting 39. He totaled 265 solo tackles, eight sacks, five interceptions and 15 passes defensed. His breakout season was 2012, when he amassed 5.5 sacks, 70 tackles, three interceptions and six passes defensed. He was well on his way to another strong season in 2013, but suffered a stinger (neck/shoulder injury) in early October against the Dallas Cowboys. That set him back, but Woodyard still managed 52 tackles, 1.5 sacks, one interception and four passes defensed in just 10 starts. He also increased his forced fumbles total from one in 2012 to a career-tying two in 2013.
But it's in coverage that Woodyard fits Horton's scheme so well. In 2012, he ranked first overall among 4-3 outside linebackers in Pro Football Focus' coverage metrics, and adapted fairly well with a position switch from weakside 'backer to inside in 2013. Horton demands versatility from his linebackers, and this is why it's a perfect fit -- certainly on paper. Grade: B. There is a caveat for health here, as Woodyard lost reps to Paris Lenon as the Broncos drove to the Super Bowl last season. But if he's fully recovered from the stinger and playing as he did in 2012, this is a great deal for both parties. Horton gets a perfect chess piece for what he does, and Woodyard can fit in with players like Zach Brown, Akeem Ayers and Colin McCarthy.