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Monday, March 5, 2012
Does tagging Griffin show lack of ambition?

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean solidified the presumption that the Titans would likely put the franchise tag on safety Michael Griffin, reporting it will happen.

The team’s first-round pick from 2007 has been inconsistent in five seasons. He may be better than most of the alternatives at a thin position in both free agency and the draft, but a guaranteed one-year salary of $6.2 million qualifies as dangerous to me.

Griffin is a complicated, moody guy. He’s at his best when the players around him are excelling, and tends not to play well when they aren’t playing well. While he got a big contract as a rookie, we have no real idea how he will react to the tag when he surely believes he’s worthy of a long-term deal. In my view, with Chris Hope gone, the Titans lack a strong leader in the secondary.

I question the move. My franchise player needs to be a guy who sets the tone, not a guy who needs the tone set for him. And while $6.2 million is hardly exorbitant, I’ve said I think the Titans could find someone at half that price to produce as Griffin did in 2011. It strikes me as a) settling and b) playing somewhat scared. I won't go so far as to call it panic.

Tennessee stood to lose three of its four starters in the secondary, with Griffin, cornerback Cortland Finnegan and safety Jordan Babineaux all heading for free agency. Indications are the team will quickly sign Babineaux once free agency opens March 13. A rule pertaining to Babineaux’s expiring contract prohibits him being re-signed before the new league year begins.

So while I expect Finnegan to be gone and the Titans to add a safety and a corner for depth, they could well go into the 2012 season with a secondary that looks a lot like last year’s. Cornerback Jason McCourty, Griffin and Babineaux will remain in place. Alterraun Verner will start in Finnegan’s place and the Titans will have a competition to see who takes over Finnegan’s nickel role.

An upgraded pass rush is a priority, and it will help all those guys on the back end.

But the Titans could have been more ambitious and/or creative at safety.

Here’s hoping they get someone in place behind Griffin who’s ready to take over in 2013, when he will be a free agent again.