It was William Shakespeare who wrote, “What’s past is prologue.”
Two more notable veterans became part of the Tennessee Titans’ past on Tuesday. Cornerback Adoreé Jackson and tackle Dennis Kelly were released to create cap space needed to build a roster for the immediate future and beyond.
Jackson was set to play 2021 on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract, which would have paid him $10.244 million. By releasing him, the Titans free up that much room under the salary cap with no dead money, which means he will count nothing against the cap.
Kelly’s release creates another $5.167 million of cap space but comes with a $3.167 million in dead money.
Tennessee has now cut five notable players in advance of the new contract year, which begins Wednesday, for a savings of roughly $31 million against the cap. Jackson’s departure narrowly topped that of fellow cornerback Malcolm Butler ($10.2 million) for the biggest relief yet. Wide receiver Adam Humphries and safety Kenny Vaccaro also were removed from the roster for savings of $4.47 million and $3.9 million, respectively.
A knee injury limited Jackson, the 18th overall pick in 2017, to three games played in 2020. For his career, he has appeared in 46 contests with 41 starts. He has made 188 tackles, forced three fumbles and notched two interceptions. He also was a punt and kick returner early in his career.
Kelly got his chance to be a starter last season after having been a valuable and versatile backup for virtually all of his first eight seasons in the league. He and right guard were the only two members of the Titans’ offensive line to start every game this season.
A day of spending – or at least commitments to spend – preceded these latest cuts. Monday, when the NFL’s legal tampering period commenced, Tennessee agreed to a five-year, $82.5 million contract with outside linebacker Bud Dupree, a three-year, $21.5 million pact with defensive lineman Denico Autry and a two-year, $4.5 million deal with offensive lineman Kendall Lamm, a backup for the majority of his career who now looks like a leading candidate to replace Kelly at right tackle.
The Titans started that day in the bottom half of the league for available cap space but quickly committed much – or more – of what they had available.
As it stands right now, the team has just six players with at least six years of NFL experience under contract for 2021. They finished 2020 with 14 such players, plus two others on injured reserve.
A significant issue, as has been the case for numerous teams, is the fact that the salary cap for 2021 dropped nearly $16 million, to $182.5 million following a season in which the COVID-19 pandemic diminished or eliminated anticipated revenue streams. The Titans had a little more than that based on their carryover from last season (the amount they had left), but it was not enough for them to do what they needed to do.
“We’ll work through it and at the end of the day try to do what’s best for the team and continue to put a winning product on the field,” general manager Jon Robinson said early in the offseason. “… One of the things that we’re trying to do this offseason, is try to keep as many guys as we can knowing that we’re not going to be able to keep all of them and add to the types of players that we’re looking for this football team.”
It is clear now that those additions come with subtractions.