NASHVILLE – It seems safe to assume that things can’t go as poorly for the Tennessee Titans, in terms of their free-agent additions as they did a year ago.
Two of them, edge rusher Vic Beasley and cornerback Johnathan Joseph, were released midseason when their play fell well short of expectations. Another, Jadeveon Clowney, failed to register a sack in eight games before knee surgery ended his campaign. Guys like defensive lineman Jack Crawford and running back D’Onta Foreman contributed to a certain degree but not near enough to offset the failures of the big-money guys.
That being said, things are not off to a good start given that one of this year’s additions, cornerback Kevin Johnson, decided to retire a little more than two months after he agreed to a one-year, $2.25 million contract with Tennessee.
This is the offseason, though. It is a time for optimism.
With that in mind, we look at this year’s notable free-agent additions and imagine the best-case scenario – within reason – for each.
Bud Dupree, OLB (five years, $82.5 million): The recovery from reconstructive knee surgery is not as daunting as it used to be, but it still seems like a bit much to expect Dupree will be the same player he was during his six seasons at Pittsburgh (this year, at least). The ideal scenario is that he does not need a follow-up procedure that would cause him to miss three weeks or so and, therefore, plays all 17 games. He has only had double-digit sacks once in his career. So, it is unrealistic to expect he will get in the 12-15 range, but if he can get eight on a rebuilt knee and open things up for Harold Landry to set a career-high (his best is nine in 2019), it would be a real good start for a player who is going to be around for a while.
Denico Autry, DL (three years, $21.5 million): This is a guy who typically has played 55-65 percent of his team’s defensive snaps. That is a good range for him to target in 2021, provided his much-discussed versatility is on full display and he lines up – and is effective – at multiple spots along the defensive front. Doing so would allow the defense to challenge opponents’ blocking schemes, create more one-on-one matchups for Jeffery Simmons and provide an extra dose of athleticism up front that was lacking in recent years. Sacks will be nice, but the best thing would be for him to lead the team in tackles for loss.
Janoris Jenkins, CB (two years, $15 million): As important as the statistics he puts up will be the attitude he injects into the secondary. It is a unit that needs to be much more aggressive than it was in 2020, and in nine NFL seasons Jenkins has been unfailingly aggressive. He doesn’t have to lead the team in interceptions (safeties Kevin Byard and Amani Hooker can handle that) but he must top all of his teammates in pass breakups and have multiple interceptions and fumble recoveries, at least one of which he returns for a touchdown. He has done those kinds of things throughout his career, so it doesn’t seem like too much to ask.
Kendall Lamm, T (two years, $6.8 million): His résumé is comparable to that of Dennis Kelly in that he is a guy who has been a backup for the bulk of his six-year career, but a backup who has played a lot. He is not a long-term answer for the offensive line, but he is big and athletic. Nothing would be better than for him to step in and play all 17 games at right tackle as Kelly did last year. That would allow second-round draft pick Dillon Radunz the time to adjust to the NFL and put himself in position to settle into the spot beginning in his second seasons, the way franchise officials expected 2020 first-round pick Isaiah Wilson to do. Of course, Lamm will have to be particularly effective as a run blocker because that is what the offense demands.
Josh Reynolds, WR (one year, $1.75 million): Things changed dramatically for Reynolds with the trade for Julio Jones. When he signed, he was a candidate for a breakout year that possibly would make him a 1,000-yard receiver. Now, if he ends up with 70 or more receptions and anything in the neighborhood of 1,000 yards, it means something has gone really wrong with Jones and/or A.J. Brown. The best thing for Reynolds is to approach the numbers he put up last season, his fourth with the Los Angeles Rams (52 receptions, 618 yards). If he does that, he easily will outdo anything Adam Humphries did in his two years with the Titans and even help offset the free-agent departure of tight end Jonnu Smith.