Jon Robinson approaches this season’s trade deadline in a position he has not been in since taking over as general manager of the Tennessee Titans in 2016.
At 5-1, the Titans are atop the AFC South Division and appear to be a serious contender for not only the postseason, but a deep run in it. Their performance, however, has been far from perfect and there are weaknesses -- some more glaring than others -- on both sides of the football.
By far, most concerning is the defense, specifically the secondary. The Titans rank toward the bottom of the league in total defense and have given up the seventh most passing yards. They have been without starting cornerback Adoree’ Jackson this season, and rookie defensive back Kristian Fulton’s timetable for return following a knee injury sustained Sunday against Pittsburgh is unknown. Not to mention, opposing offenses are converting more than 60 percent of their third downs against the Titans.
With Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL, the Titans possibly could use help at tackle. A wide receiver for depth purposes would also be logical.
Robinson only has made one in-season trade during his time with the Titans, and that was this season, when he shipped off discontented outside linebacker Kamalei Correa to the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick.
The Titans have a little over $8.3 million remaining in salary cap space, according to spotrac.com. So, as the Nov. 3 trade deadline approaches, here is a look at players who likely are available and potentially could help the Titans.
Golden Tate, wide receiver, New York Giants: Tate is a Nashville guy. The 32-year-old veteran grew up in suburban Hendersonville, Tennessee, and played football at Pope John Paul II High School. The New York Giants (1-6) could very well be in sell mode as they continue to rebuild and moving a player like Tate to a contender makes sense.
He has not necessarily been lighting the world on fire this season, but the 2014 Pro Bowler would make an already good offense even better. The sure-handed Tate has 680 career receptions for 8,085 yards and 45 touchdowns in 11 seasons. He is best known for his time with the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions, where he played a combined nine seasons (four with Seattle, five with Detroit). In 11 postseason games, which includes a Super Bowl victory with Seattle, Tate has caught 35 passes for 382 yards and three touchdowns.
The Titans’ top three wide receivers are set, but a guy like Tate would add a productive, veteran presence to the rotation.
Cornerbacks Pierre Desir (New York Jets) and Nickell Robey-Coleman (Philadelphia Eagles): Desir has already been traded once this season. The Indianapolis Colts shipped him to the New York Jets. The Jets (0-7) presumably are in sell mode too, and Desir would be a rather cheap upgrade for at cornerback, where 36-year-old journey man Johnathan Joseph has been inconsistent. A seven-year veteran, Desir has played in 68 games (42 starts) with the Cleveland Browns, San Diego Chargers, Indianapolis Colts and the Jets. Desir has eight career interceptions and 247 tackles.
Robey-Coleman would be a slot corner option for the Titans. The 28-year-old has spent time with the Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Chargers and Eagles in just over seven seasons. He has 49 passes defended, six interceptions and 301 tackles. With Fulton out for the time being, Robey-Coleman would be a solid half-season rental.
Riley Reiff, offensive tackle, Minnesota Vikings: It’s hard to tell what the Titans want to do at left tackle with Lewan out for the season. Coaches appear to be happy with Ty Sambrailo, who has filled in thus far. However, a potential upgrade would make sense.
Reiff has started 118 of a possible 126 games with the Detroit Lions and Vikings over the course of nine seasons. He has played 100 percent of snaps in six games so far this season. The veteran would be an affordable option, as he is due $5.9 million in salary this season. However, he has one season left on his contract and carries over $11.65 million over into next season.
The Titans could be more inclined to stick with Sambrailo and look to free agency for a depth option. The best remaining offensive tackle on the market is Cordy Glenn, who the Cincinnati Bengals cut in March. Glenn spent his first six NFL seasons with the Buffalo Bills. He appeared in 78 games (77 starts) at left tackle. In March 2018, the Bills traded Glenn Cincinnati Bengals, where he made 18 starts at left tackle in 19 games.
Stephon Gillmore, cornerback, New England Patriots: Adding a three-time Pro Bowler and the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year would send a strong message. The Patriots (2-4) could be sellers this season, and Gilmore is in the fourth season of his five-year, $65-million contract. Roughly $18 million in guaranteed money remains on the deal, and the Patriots would be on the hook for it if they moved the elite talent. If the Titans landed Gillmore, they would be responsible for his base salary of $7 million next season.
Making the deal likely would cost a high draft pick or two, and possibly even a player. Tennessee’s current salary cap situation could also make the move prohibitive. There is no doubt, though, that Gilmore is one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks – if not the best – and would make things better, at least to some degree, on third down.