It took the Tennessee Titans the better part of Monday before they made their first free-agent addition of 2021.
It is an important one that will help shore up one of the team’s most glaring weaknesses from last season: the pass rush.
The Titans have agreed with defensive lineman Denico Autry on a three-year deal worth $21.5 million, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero. Autry, who spent the past three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, will get $9 million in guaranteed money and $14.25 million over two years, per that same report.
Autry has recorded more than seven sacks in two of his three seasons with the Colts. He’s coming off a season in which he finished with 7 1/2, nine tackles for a loss and 33 total tackles. He led Indianapolis in sacks until he was placed on the COVID-19 reserves list in November, which caused him to miss two games.
A versatile defensive weapon, Autry (6-foot-5, 285 pounds) is capable of playing inside and outside positions along the line. He played more on the outside in 2020 after the Colts traded for DeForest Buckner, but lined up inside often in passing situations.
He registered 20 sacks and 26 tackles for a loss with the Colts in 40 games (38 starts).
Undrafted out of Mississippi State in 2014, Autry spent his first four NFL seasons with the Oakland Raiders. He played in 56 games with 18 starts in Oakland and collected 10 1/2 sacks, 100 tackles and 24 tackles for a loss.
The Titans, of course, were one of the worst pass-rushing teams in the NFL in 2020. They had the third-fewest sacks (19) in the regular season and added five in one postseason game, which they lost to the Baltimore Ravens at home.
The lack of pass rush the Titans displayed in 2020 was not a result of a front office that did not invest in it. The Titans signed two former Pro Bowlers, Vic Beasley and Jadeveon Clowney, to lucrative one-year deals. Neither of them recorded a sack.
The Titans certainly hope Autry turns out to be a more productive investment.