Despite “being close a couple of times,” according to general manager Jon Robinson, the Tennessee Titans did not address one of their biggest needs at an offensive skill position in the 2021 NFL Draft.
They added a pair of wide receivers on the third day with the selections of Dez Fitzpatrick (Louisville) in the fourth round, and Racey McMath (LSU) in the sixth round. However, they stood pat, at least for the time being, with players they currently have in the tight end room.
It was expected that the Titans would add a tight end at some point in the draft after Jonnu Smith, their No. 1 tight end from the past two seasons, signed a four-year deal with the Patriots in free agency. The Titans subsequently re-signed role players Anthony Firkser, who could produce more with a larger role, and Geoff Swaim, a veteran who prides himself on his blocking. In addition to those two, the Titans have several untested players (Parker Hesse, Tommy Hudson and Jared Pickney).
While Robinson expressed confidence in that group, he did not rule out the possibility of making an addition to the tight end room at some point ahead of the 2021 season.
“... We'll continue to evaluate players that are available here after the Draft as we start that process,” he said. “I've gotten several calls from general managers on other teams that have players on their roster, so the roster building process is never over.
“But we are excited with the group that we've got back and see how those guys come in and compete and continue to evaluate the players that are available as we continue to move through the offseason.”
Considering what Robinson said, here’s a look at potential free-agent options for the Titans:
Delanie Walker: The Titans cut him last March after injuries shortened his final two seasons with the team. He took this past season off to heal and get back into football shape and said “team’s know what I can do. … I’ll come back next year strong, faster and healthier.” The Titans know very well what Walker can do in full health. He holds the franchise’s record for receptions by a tight end with 381 for 4,423 yards and 24 touchdowns. A call to the three-time Pro Bowler wouldn’t hurt.
MyCole Pruitt: Pruitt (pictured) spent each of the last three seasons with the Titans, who did not re-sign him after his contract expired at the conclusion of the 2020 season. He does not add much as a pass-catcher (his career-high is 10 receptions in a season). Like Walker, though, he wouldn’t have to acclimate to what the Titans want to accomplish offensively.
In his post-draft press conference, Robinson said there is no reason why the Titans wouldn’t be interested in bringing Pruitt back.
“Yeah, we'll see kind of how it goes here and like I said in the post-draft, and as we inch closer to mandatory minicamp and the offseason and training camp, and (Pruitt) has played a lot of good snaps for us,” Robinson said. “He's done nothing to warrant not being under consideration to come back here.”
Trey Burton: Burton had a role in one of the most iconic plays in Super Bowl history. In the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl LII victory over New England, Burton took a pitch pass, rolled to his right and threw a touchdown pass to quarterback Nick Foles on a fourth-and-goal late in the second quarter.
After four seasons with the Eagles, Burton has played for the Chicago Bears (2018, 2019) and Indianapolis Colts this past season. He has 159 receptions for 1,432 yards and 15 touchdowns in his seven-year career.
Tyler Eifert: A first-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013, Eifert made the Pro Bowl in 2015 after a career season in which he caught 52 passes for 615 yards and 13 touchdowns. He hasn’t had the same production since then, though, and has a lengthy injury history, including a dislocated elbow in 2014 and a handful of ankle injuries. Eifert spent seven seasons with the Bengals before signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars last season. For his career, he has 221 receptions for 2,501 yards and 26 touchdowns.