AFC South: Brandon Gibson

Newest Titans will add depth

April, 1, 2013
The Tennessee Titans added their 11th and 12th free agent in their ongoing roster revamp, signing receiver Kevin Walter and interior offensive lineman Chris Spencer.

Walter is familiar to the Titans as he played the last seven years for the Houston Texans, often serving as the second wide receiver opposite Andre Johnson.

He had 65 catches and eight touchdowns for Houston in 2007, but his role had diminished with only 39 and 41 catches the last two seasons and five total touchdowns. He was a recent salary-cap casualty for a team that drafted a couple receivers last year and is expected to draft a more dynamic No. 2 receiver at the end of the month.

The Titans have struck out with several veteran receivers, including Danny Amendola, Wes Welker and Brandon Gibson. Indications are they’d like to trade the expensive Nate Washington, but I am not sure Walter will add enough to make Washington expendable.

Walter joins Kendall Wright, Kenny Britt, Washington, Damian Williams, Lavelle Hawkins and Michael Preston on the Titans receiving corps. The group has a new position coach in Shawn Jefferson.

Spencer is the third veteran, interior offensive lineman the Titans have added. He joins Andy Levitre, who will start at left guard, and Rob Turner.

While Fernando Velasco is expected to remain the starter at center, right guard will be wide open and Turner and Spencer could compete with a draft pick or slug it out between them.

Seattle picked Spencer in the first round in 2005 out of Ole Miss and he played the last two years in Chicago, where offensive line struggles were a big issue.

“Both Kevin and Chris are established veterans in this league who have a great deal of starting experience,” said Titans general manager Ruston Webster said in a statement. “They have made significant contributions on good teams during their careers. We feel like they can come in and provide increased competition at their respective positions for us.”

The addition of Spencer could mean the end of overpriced Eugene Amano, who was hurt in the preseason last year and missed the entire 2012 season.
I did not think receiver would be a spot the Titans delved into in free agency.

I was wrong on that.

They were players for Danny Amendola and were even part of the conversation about Wes Welker. (Regarding Welker, Titans GM Ruston Webster said on The Wake Up Zone in Nashville: "They contacted us and we looked into it ... but he had another destination.")

Clearly the Titans like the idea of finding a true slot guy, which would make Kendall Wright largely an outside receiver. If they add someone, they’d look to deal Nate Washington, who’s expensive.

[+] EnlargeNate Washington
Jim Brown/USA TODAY SportsNate Washington is reportedly in coach Mike Munchak's doghouse.
I can understand them asking Washington to take a pay cut. He’s due base salaries of $4.2 million this year and $4.8 million in 2014.

But he’s a far more dependable guy than Kenny Britt, who’s entering a contract year. Dumping Washington would leave the Titans with Wright, Britt, the newcomer, Damian Williams, Lavelle Hawkins (overpriced at $1.9 million this year) and Michael Preston. And a year from now they’d likely be subtracting Britt from that group.

Word is Washington lost favor with the team after he gave half-hearted effort over the last month of the season. If they didn’t think he worked, they should have gotten in his face about it. They should tell him they can’t pay him what he’s scheduled to make. Perhaps they’ve done those things.

I’m not sure they should be looking to trade him. But there is a big theme with this team right now, that Mike Munchak will sink or swim in his third year as coach with his guys. And his guys don’t give half-hearted effort in the last month of the season no matter how bad things are.

The thinking on Amendola or Welker was that they are different than anyone the Titans have, and could be super-reliable on short, simple passes for Jake Locker.

Who else out there profiles like that? I don't know if anyone does. Julian Edelman?

Brandon Gibson of the Rams doesn't seem the same type of guy to me, and he’s the next guy the Titans are courting.

Scouts Inc. rates him as an excellent route-runner, however, so I can understand the appeal of that.

“He understands how to read coverages and does a good job of finding seams to settle in when looking at zone schemes,” Scouts Inc. says.

Is Gibson at a cheaper rate an upgrade over an expensive Washington? I’m not so sure.
A few quick thoughts from the Tennessee Titans' 17-16 loss at the Edward Jones Dome against the St. Louis Rams Saturday night:

The veteran quarterback: Matt Hasselbeck was very good again, with seven completions in nine attempts for 74 yards. He’s done well to find a rhythm with his new team and the Titans should have gotten more than 13 points while he was in game. Still, three scoring drives in the first three possessions with him at quarterback is a nice development. He left the game after getting the wind knocked out of him when his neck was bent awkwardly as he went to the ground on a hit. But indications are that he is fine.

The rookie quarterback: Jake Locker did not do well when he took over for Hasselbeck. His first throw, however, was a perfectly placed pass up the right side on a roll out to Jared Cook, who made a great stretching catch. Locker finished, however, 8-for-18 for 82 yards and an overthrow interception. A week after he posted a passer rating of 130.8 his number was 35.0. Undrafted receiver James Kirkendoll should have held on to a touchdown throw that would have helped things a great deal.

Bad start: The first play from scrimmage brought back memories of last season when the secondary struggled. Cortland Finnegan let Brandon Gibson go, thinking he was passing him to a safety. But there was a mix up and Michael Griffin wasn’t close. So Sam Bradford hit Gibson for an 83-yard touchdown. Finnegan looked great in the slot as a rusher, with multiple impact blitzes that caused the Rams problems.

Also: Rookie corner Tommie Campbell actually looked to be in good position on a Donnie Avery 19-yard touchdown catch from A.J. Feeley but didn’t find the ball. … The Titans are running and defending screens far better than they did in the 2010 season. ... Rookie linebacker Colin McCarthy had a sack and was among the team’s most active defenders in the second half. … Kicker Rob Bironas looked to get on track with field goals of 46, 25 and 23 yards.