For the second time in as many years, the Tennessee Titans are in search of a right tackle.
This time, they actually might have to make a choice. There are at least four players who merit some sort of consideration to be the fifth member of an offensive line that returns starters at the other spots.
A year ago, it was a decision between veteran backup Dennis Kelly and first-round draft pick Isaiah Wilson. That contest effectively was over at the start of training camp when Wilson was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list. Kelly promptly staked his claim and started every contest. Wilson made more missteps off the field than plays on it and eventually was traded shortly after the season.
Kelly’s release to free up salary-cap space this offseason opened up the competition again, and this time the start of training camp figures to be when the battle begins in earnest.
“Those decisions can’t be made until fall camp,” offensive line coach Keith Carter said Monday. “Our offseason is great, and we’re able to drill and do all those things. But we just don’t have any full speed, live team reps to truly evaluate these guys.
“… There’s been no decisions made or anything like that. … It’s going to come down to fall camp and see how that journey goes for each one of them.”
A look at the candidates to be the Titans’ starting right tackle in 2021:
• Kendall Lamm (6-5, 310). An early free-agent addition, Lamm is a six-year veteran (four with Houston, two with Cleveland) whose career is similar to that of Kelly’s. He has started at least one game every season but more than four just once. That was in 2018, when he was the Texans’ starter at right tackle for 13 contests. The team’s financial investment in him (two years, $6.8 million) would be a high price to pay for a backup, if that’s where he winds up.
• Ty Sambrailo (6-5, 311). Signed as a free agent in 2020 to be the primary backup at both tackle spots, he eventually started five games at left tackle in place of the injured Taylor Lewan before he sustained his own season-ending injury. He re-signed this offseason, and his familiarity with the system plays to his advantage. Plus, nine of the 13 games he started in his first five seasons (two win Denver, three with Atlanta) were at right tackle.
• Dillon Radunz (6-6, 301). Tennessee’s second-round pick in this year’s draft almost certainly is the long-term answer at the position and a do-over after the Wilson disaster. During organized team activities (OTAs), however, he has worked at both guard and tackle, which does not exactly suggest that coaches have him on the fast track to take that spot. More likely, it will be a situation in which he starts the season as a backup. If the starter gets hurt Radunz will step in and the team won’t look back.
• David Quessenberry (6-5, 305). Seven years after being drafted and three years after he made his NFL debut (his career was stalled by a battle with cancer), Quessenberry finally made his first start in 2020 when he stepped in after Sambrailo’s injury and started the last six games at left tackle. He has been with the Titans, either on the practice squad or the active roster, since early in 2018 and is a popular guy with coaches and teammates. He is not the favorite to win the job but will be a sentimental choice.
“It’s a unique situation,” Carter said. “We have several guys that have playing experience … on Sundays, and then – obviously – (Radunz) coming in as a rookie, and [we have to] see where he fits in that picture. It’s exciting.
“… That decision will be made by (head coach Mike Vrabel) and [general manager] Jon [Robinson].”
And it won’t be made anytime soon.