AFC South: Travis LaBoy

Titans' Washburn may be Philly-bound

January, 18, 2011
1/18/11
10:22
PM ET
Jeff Fisher critics have called for staff shuffling.

They’d have been foolish to want defensive line coach Jim Washburn to go. But Washburn, a free agent like every coach on Fisher’s 2010 staff except for Mike Heimerdinger, may be on the verge of jumping to Philadelphia, reports Jim Wyatt.

Fisher acknowledging the possibility may be an early attempt to start softening the blow.

It would be a terrible development for the organization, which has consistently seen Washburn turn draft picks and free agents, problem children and reclamation projects into productive pass rushers.

The list of guys Washburn got the best out of includes Jevon Kearse, who joined the Titans in 1999, the same year as Washburn as well as Kenny Holmes, Josh Evans, Henry Ford, Carlos Hall, Robaire Smith, Antwan Odom, Travis LaBoy, Albert Haynesworth, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Tony Brown, Jason Jones, Dave Ball and Jason Babin.

In six seasons with four teams, Babin had 17. 5 career sacks before the Titans signed him for $1 million last offseason. Under Washburn’s tutelage, Babin posted 12.5 sacks -- the sixth-best total in the NFL. (Here’s a column on Babin and Ball from early in the 2010 season.)

A screamer, Washburn knows how to find and push buttons for his players, and he’s helped them make them a ton of money. By Wyatt’s count, 11 defensive linemen left the Titans over the past 12 years to sign big free-agent contracts elsewhere at a total value of more than $355 million.

I can think of only two guys who were better after they left. Juqua Thomas, who’s now Juqua Parker of the Eagles and could soon have Washburn as a position coach again, is not part of that big-money departure list. Randy Starks of the Dolphins is.

Virtually everyone who’s played for Washburn has good things to say about what he did for them.

Replacing him would be a huge undertaking for Fisher. A lame-duck coach, he won’t be able to offer his next defensive line coach any more than the one-year deal he was able to offer Washburn.
Add another reclamation project to Jim Washburn’s pile -- provided the Eagles don’t choose to match the one-year, $1 million contract Jason Babin has agreed to with Tennessee, according to Adam Schefter.

Babin
Babin
Washburn, the Titans' defensive line coach, has had his share of high draft picks – Jevon Kearse, Albert Haynesworth, Travis LaBoy, Antwan Odom, Randy Starks, Jason Jones and Sen'Derrick Marks -- to work with.

But he’s also been given a share of scrap heap guys.

And before people like me jump to say we don’t expect much from Babin, who busted big time as a first-round pick for the Houston Texans in 2004, we’d be wise to review some of those names, too.

Kyle Vanden Bosch and Tony Brown turned into defensive stalwarts and Dave Ball was tendered at a second-round level with a one-year $1.8 million price tag.

So Babin is an extreme case of wait-and-see.

Perhaps he eases the pressure on the team to find a pass-rusher in the first three rounds of the draft. I would think it’d be awfully hard for them to make that assessment before the draft, though, and he won’t change their plans.

If he blossoms under his new position coach, the Titans will take the depth and experience.

Here’s the bonus review from Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc., who returns e-mails with lightning speed.
DE/OLB tweener who has never really found a home or position that best suits him. Had a tremendous Combine when coming out for the draft and I think that has clouded some people into thinking he is a great athlete who can really play coverage (in a 3-4 for example). But that hasn't been the case and he is more or less just an upfield 9 Technique...which is like [Dwight] Freeney or [Robert] Mathis (lining up real wide). He does have speed, but hasn't developed a real repertoire of pass rush moves and when run at, is a liability. Obviously DE is a need area for the Titans, so adding him to the mix isn't such a bad thing, but he isn't an everydown guy and in the end, you would hope that you can do better for a pure specialty pass rusher.
 
  Don McPeak/US Presswire
  Keith Bulluck knows the window of opportunity for the Titans is getting smaller.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans believe they have all the necessary parts to contend for a championship: a top offensive line that facilitates two complementary running backs and a good decision-maker at quarterback; a swarming defense with at least one Pro Bowl talent in every unit; a clutch kicker with a big leg; a steady coaching staff under calm, cool Jeff Fisher.

Camp Confidential: AFC South
Titans: Mon., Aug. 3
Jaguars: Sat., Aug. 8
Colts: Sat., Aug. 15
Texans: Fri., Aug. 21
Training camp index

But while they have a young core to build around beyond 2009, it feels like a window may be closing. Among the players in a contract year are tone-setters such as longtime linebacker Keith Bulluck, defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, center Kevin Mawae, cornerback Nick Harper and defensive end Jevon Kearse.

None has played longer or more consistently than Bulluck, the outspoken 4-3 outside linebacker who has long excelled in the Titans' system with his speed, athleticism and ability to hit.

He's seen good friends and good teammates disappear from the locker room as the team judged them unaffordable or done, and lamented the losses of Eddie George, Samari Rolle, the late Steve McNair, Robaire Smith, Derrick Mason and, most recently, Albert Haynesworth.

Fantasy Football: 32 Questions
Ken Daube breaks down the 2009 season for Tennessee's backfield tandem of Chris Johnson and LenDale White, and explains why White has greater value in fantasy. Story

That makes him expect he'll be next, adding to his sense of urgency: This is his last, best chance to get to a Super Bowl with the Titans.

"That window of opportunity is only open but for so long," he said. "I've been on this team going on 10 years. The window's been open two times previously and we didn't jump through it, so I feel -- for me, for the organization -- this team has to be the one to take that bound and jump through the window of opportunity. It's fair to say that."

 
  AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
  The addition of wide receiver Nate Washington gives the Titans another downfield threat.

Last year's 13-3 team returns 20 starters, and Nate Washington is an upgrade over Justin McCareins. The team is confident it has a committee that can make up for the departure of Haynesworth, and has replaced defensive linemen well through the years.

"Now it's definitely straight business and trying to win the Super Bowl," Bulluck said.

The Titans may not match last season's 10-0 start or 13-3 record. Barring injuries, they should be a playoff team and if it does prove to be Bulluck's swan song with the franchise, it's reasonable for him to expect his last game with them will be one deep in the playoffs.

Key questions

1. Will the passing offense improve?

There are three reasons to believe so: Washington, the free-agent addition who will start opposite Justin Gage, and draft picks Kenny Britt and Jared Cook.

Washington gives the team a receiving speedster on the outside who should keep safeties honest, which can threaten defenses deep and help create additional room for the team's most dynamic weapon, Chris Johnson. Britt is a physical receiver who comes into the league having impressed offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger with his ability to get off the jam at the line of scrimmage. And when Cook was available 89th overall, the Titans felt he was such a value that they dealt their 2010 second-rounder to New England in order to take Cook. Such a trade is ra
re for them.

Kerry Collins will have solid protection. Now he should have better options downfield, who can do more once he delivers them the ball.

2. Will they rush and stuff the run as effectively without Haynesworth?

 Haye
 Jones

They will miss a player who could dominate and frequently drew double teams, and his fear-no-one, say-anything attitude gave the unit some of its swagger. But a year ago they lost their left end tandem of Antwan Odom and Travis LaBoy as free agents after they'd combined for 14 sacks, and there was no talk in 2009 about how the team missed the duo. They plugged in people and moved forward.

Defensive line coach Jim Washburn has molded a lot of players into effective run-stuffers and pocket-collapsers. Free-agent addition Jovan Haye and second-round draft pick Sen'Derrick Marks are guys he wanted for the interior, just like Jason Jones, last year's second-round pick. The Titans will love it if opponents draw up protections expecting they won't be as threatening as they were with Haynesworth.

3. What will change under new defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil?

Well, Fisher is a defensive coach who's overseen successful transitions at the post before. Cecil learned under the guy he replaces, current Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz. So no matter how much people may want to believe Cecil will bring a blitzing mentality, the Titans won't be compromising coverage if they get sufficient pass pressure from their front four. (See No. 2 above.)

In his early days in the post, Cecil said if the Titans give up 6 yards on third-and-seven, he'll say yippee or hurrah as the defense leaves the field having held. Expect a Schwartz-like emphasis on third-down percentage and points allowed.

Market watch

 
  AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
  The Titans hope a lighter LenDale White can remain a steady complement to Chris Johnson.

LenDale White said he was as heavy as 265 in 2009 and reported to camp at 228. It's a contract year and that was certainly part of the motivation, but he's matured, too, and has been a good teammate for the bulk of his first three seasons. Given the same sort of key-situation carries he got last year, when he scored 15 touchdowns, he can be an even more effective complement to Johnson.

Newcomer to watch

Bo Scaife wasn't as much of a target down the stretch last season, and while he's got a knack for a tough catch in a crucial spot, Cook brings much more upside. If he can run the sort of routes and make the type of catches he did in OTAs and the early days of camp, he could become a prominent piece of the offense in short order. If he can earn his way onto the field, he will be able to outrun linebackers and outmuscle defensive backs. First he'll have to prove to be a reliable route-runner and show he's got dependable hands.

Observation deck

Leroy Harris worked as the starting center at the start of camp while Mawae completed his recovery from an elbow injury. It's unlikely the stronger but less experienced Harris can win the job, but he gives Tennessee great security at center and guard. Now the Titans need to find a swing tackle to back up Michael Roos and David Stewart. ... Rookie running back Javon Ringer could quickly seize the No. 3 running back job if he can show the skills the team needs from that player on special teams. ... Rookie corner Ryan Mouton has started out as Vincent Fuller's backup at nickel. Can he also get comfortable outside and provide depth behind Cortland Finnegan and Harper? Mouton, DeMarcus Faggins, Cary Williams and Jason McCourty will jostle for spots in the pecking order with Eric King and Chris Carr gone. ... The end looks to be near, mercifully, for two ineffective third-year players on offense -- running back Chris Henry and receiver Paul Williams. What might the Titans have been if they hit on their second- and third-rounders in 2007? ... After two middling years, receiver and return man Chris Davis looks like he's gained confidence and could be in line to break out, especially if Mark Jones doesn't mount a strong case for the return jobs and the last receiver slot. ... Look for high-motor defensive end Vanden Bosch, slowed by a groin injury last year, to m
ake a strong return and rank among the league's sack leaders. ... The Titans remain hopeful that Vince Young can be a solid backup to Collins, but a roster bonus of more than $4 million in 2010 calls his future with the team into question.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Thomas from parts unknown writes: Kuharsky how do you know that other teams had Derek Cox rated lower on their draft boards. Did you see any teams actual draft boards? Or did you think teams had him rated lower because ESPN Faux-Scouts Kiper and Mcshay figured he was a late round selection because he wasn't invited to the combine. And that they might have overlooked him all together because he was from a small school. You should maybe get off the whole Derek Cox could have been had in a later round shtick, because in reality you aren't a scout and you don't know.

Paul Kuharsky: Here's how I know: I know people with other teams whom I trust and who help set their teams' draft boards.

So I said to them, "Hey, where did you have Cox that Jacksonville spent the 2010 second to take in the third?" And two different people with two different teams said, "Oh, sixth or seventh."

The days when teams don't pay attention to small-school guys and non-combine guys are largely over. People knew who this guy was. And he could turn out to be great. We'll have to wait and see -- the Jaguars will certainly have the last word. But we do have some context for where Cox was valued by other teams and it's hardly unreasonable to say so.


Larry in Washington, D.C., writes: I know the Colts are going to miss Howard Mudd tremendously, but with the rumors that Tom Moore may follow him into retirement scares me more. What are your thoughts on the transition should he actually retire? We know Peyton had more input in playcalling than most, if not all, QB's in the league. Do you see him actually taking over the full play-calling as opposed to choosing between the 2 or 3 plays Moore would "suggest"? Thanks, and I hope the offseason is treating you well.

Paul Kuharsky: Well, the retirements are official now, though the possibility of some sort of return as consultants hasn't been erased.

I would expect Clyde Christensen (or maybe Jim Caldwell himself) to work with Peyton Manning the same way Moore has. Manning will still need some additional, outside perspective.


Ross in Brentwood writes: I'm surprised you haven't addressed the Titans bringing in Drew Bennett for a physical yet Paul, I'd be curious to know your thoughts on them potentially bringing him back, especially in the wake of this "weakness" article on their passing game. I do agree with parts of that article, but I do think there's actually going to be improvement this year, and as I've said in my "mythbuster" response, they don't need an air-it-out offense to succeed. I do, however, think Bennett is not the missing piece here. They already tried bringing back a veteran wideout who began with the Titans, and that didn't work out too well for Justin McCareins. At this point they don't need to break the bank and/or trade away multiple draft picks (high ones at least) for a Boldin or Edwards, but Drew Bennett will just be another veteran presence who won't be a game-changer...although with the youngsters now at the position, maybe that is what they need.

Paul Kuharsky: I was away for two days when Bennett passed through Nashville.

If he's the fourth/fifth guy in case Hawkins still can't do anything or someone gets hurt, I could live with that. If he takes any opportunity away from Britt or Hawkins, then no thanks.

He's certainly not the playmaker or speedster they want, but at this stage Washington and Britt are those guys and it's unlikely they will be able to add any more. The question really is, do you want Bennett now as the fifth, or will you take your chances with what will come free at the end of training camps around the league?


Josh in Memphis writes: Wouldn't the Titans be better off signing Malcolm Floyd RFA S. Diego than Drew Bennett? The two are the same size, Malcolm's younger 27 vs. 30-31, Malcolm's healthier, caught as many balls in SD last year than Bennett in STL in 2 years. Malcolm brother player WR for the Oilers back in the 94-97 years.

Paul Kuharsky: The period for signing restricted free agents to offer sheets ended April 17. Floyd had a second-round pick attached as compensation. Between that and the contract it would have taken to assure the Chargers didn't match the offer, he would have been a lot more expensive. Friday, Floyd signed his one-year deal with the Chargers.

As for where his brother was over 10 years ago, do you really think something like that would factor in to a team's personnel decision? Why?


Mauricio in Houston writes: If I may, three questions in one. Is the need for help at running back of my Texans real? If it is, would it be worth pursuing Jones from the jets and if so, what would be a reasanoble trade value in draft picks.

Paul Kuharsky: Absolutely it's real. They need someone to complement Slaton and to turn to if he's hurt.

Maybe Jeremiah Johnson or Arian Foster surprise -- I'm in Tennessee so have seen and heard a lot of Foster and don't have high expectations for him. Maybe Chris Brown can stay healthy for a stretch. Maybe they eventually add Ryan Torain or another outsider to the mix.

Thomas Jones from the Jets, I would expect, would be too expensive. If the Texans didn't spend a second-, third- or fourth-rounder on a running back in the draft, would they part with one for a back who will be 31 in August? I suspect not. Running backs over 30 are viewed as huge question marks by most teams.


Evan in Chattanooga, Tenn., writes: Paul, I enjoy the blog, keep it up. My question is about the Titans defensive line this upcoming season. With the loss of Haynesworth, will the line still have the same potency it had last year, or do you see the Titans having to start blitzing linebackers to keep the pressure on the qb? Kearse and KVB are getting older, do you see any of the Titans young DE's having the potential to be of the same caliber as these guys? I think Tony Brown is a great DT and will be starting this year, will Jovan Haye or Jason Jones be starting as the other DT? Thanks, Evan

Paul Kuharsky: Thanks, pal.

I wouldn't say the same potency. They'll miss automatic double teams and Haynesworth's size.

But a year ago they lost Antwan Odom and Travis LaBoy in free agency -- a tandem that combined fo
r 14 sacks the year before. And I can't remember once in 2007 watching the Titans and saying, "They are really missing Odom and LaBoy." I still expect them to rush the passer effectively with the front four.

I expect Brown and Jones will be the starters, but there is room and time for that to change.

They may blitz more, but I don't think it will be a lot more.


Weller Ross in Knoxville, Tenn., writes: I was wondering what your thoughts were on Tom Moore and Howard Mudd retiring. How big of a hit do you think this will be to the Colts offense if at all? Thanks, Weller PS: I also blogged about it and thought you might find it interesting.

Paul Kuharsky: I've done several posts on it. I think no matter how ready they were with guys to promote, that this could be a big hit, particularly from an offensive line perspective. Does Tony Ugoh, for example, get better without Mudd? I suspect not.


Dash in Nashville writes: Paul...love the blog. Who do you think will take the #3 RB roster spot for the Titans? A. Javon Ringer B. Chris Henry C. Rafael Little

Paul Kuharsky: A. I think it would take an upset for Ringer not to be on the roster. Little is an intriguing guy. Henry, in my eyes, has no chance to stick.


Farris in Nashville, Tenn., writes: Great blog Paul! I wanted to get your opinion on something. With the Titans finally giving Dinger a decent set of WR's that could possibly be a solid 4 deep, that he will open up the passing game and give Collins more opportunities to throw more vertical routes? I've got a gut feeling that Collins could possibly be in store for a 3,000 plus yard season and 20 plus TD's. It could possibly resemble the Co-MVP season of McNair. Dinger loves the deep routes and he finally has the speed to get it done. Thanks and I LOVE the blog and your segment on 104.5 The Zone!

Paul Kuharsky: Thanks very much, Farris.

Better and more open? Yes. Dramatically? I'd say no. The one big difference here is that in 2003 the Titans' 3.3 yards per carry was the worst for the franchise since 1974. Barring major injuries, this year's run game will be far better than that, reducing the need for Tennessee to open things up too, too much.


Pokerfitz in Jacksonville writes: Im not sure why you dont understand the reason they Jags love Greg Jones so much. When he gets the ball the guy has been productive. Including rushing for over a 100 yards in Pittsburgh when he was subbing for an injured Fred Taylor. He gets tough yards, Breaks tackles and can catch the ball. His only knock has been his health, not his ability.

Paul Kuharsky: Huge scouting bromide -- the best ability a player has is availability.

You know a guy who's even more proven? (And by proven I mean has more than 64 carries a year.) Taylor.

Jones has a 3.4-yard average. For comparison's sake, let's look around the division at secondary running backs: Houston's Chris Brown has a 4.3 average (but has bigger health issues than Jones); Tennessee's LenDale White has a 3.9 average (and gets the ball in extremely favorable situations); Former Colts running back Dominic Rhodes has a 4.0 average (and is now with the Bills).

That's not the be-all end-all, of course. But I'm not, or wasn't, really excited about them either. It's hardly unreasonable to say Jones is unproven as an every game, No. 2 commodity like they plan to make him. I will be interested to see him work.


Taylor in Murfreesboro writes: Hey Paul, I love the blog! But all I hear about Vince Young is the money the titans will have to be paying him for a back up QB is going to be way too much! So, why not try putting him on the field as a wide receiver, he has the skills, (6'5", athletic, fast) to be a great No. 1 wr if he were trained properly and was willing to "contribute" to the teams success instead of riding the bench, or he could run some Ohio State kinda of sets (Pryor and Boeckman in the fiesta bowl). What do you think about all of this?

Paul Kuharsky: I think it's crazy talk, really.

They spent good money on a free agent in Nate Washington and their top draft pick on Kenny Britt. Why not try to develop actual receivers? I am against anything that would take even a snap away from those two guys.

I can't understand the line of thinking that because Young is a good athlete he'd have to be a good wide receiver. You say he "has the skills" to be a great wide receiver -- then the first thing you list isn't a skill, it's his height, and the second and third things are "athletic" and "fast," qualities a ton of bad receivers possess, too.

Young's a good athlete and he's not a very good quarterback at this point -- and he's been focused on that position for his entire adult football life. But he's going to be a successful receiver?


cameron from parts unknown writes: Firstly, I want to say i am a huge fan of your blog and i am a constant reader. My question to you is that the texans are ready to make a run to the playoffs, i feel, but do you think trying to add a Plaxico Burress would to far of a reach to compliment andre johnson. Also do you think they should go after a chris mcallister because of his playoff experience and his career numbers.

Paul Kuharsky: Thanks and please keep clicking.

Burress still has legal issues to resolve and from what I've read and seen, he is unlikely to be immediately available. Complementing Andre Johnson isn't a huge issue for Houston. Kevin Walter had 60 catches and eight touchdowns last year.

You fall into a familiar trap with McAlister. He's recognizable so you think he'd help. The Texans, and every team, evaluate a guy like that based more on what he can do going forward than than "playoff experience and career numbers." I don't love their secondary, but I don't feel like McAlister would qualify as an addition that could fix their issues. He only played in six games last year and he's about to turn 32.


Paul in Iowa City writes: As far as Titans myths go, one I'd like to discuss is something of a non-myth. Its the whitewashing of the 99 draft, where we picked Kevin Dyson over Randy Moss. Dyson of course has a mythical position within the organization because of the MSM, but without that play the refusal to draft Moss stands out as a colossal mistake (which it still should). By and large though, the Titans draft well.

Paul Kuharsky: The posts with responses to AFC South myths are coming soon. This one wouldn't fit there, but seemed good for the mailbag.

By and large they draft well. Unless, of course, botching No. 6 and No. 3 overall picks in consecutive years counts against them.

Did they choose the wrong guy talent-wise for the receiver position at No. 16 in 1998? Absolutely.

But taking your logic and extending it, then I expect you'd absolutely defend their choice of Pacman Jones in 2006. He was, after all, a superior football talent to Antrel Rolle. (As then-Titans GM Floyd Reese predicted at the time, Rolle didn't even stay a corner.)

Now Jones turned out to be far more of a headache and troublemaker than Moss and couldn't keep himself eligible to play.

But if you rip the Titans for not taking Moss, by the same logic you would have had to applaud them for taking Jones.

So how's that stance working out for you?


Sam in Nashville writes: 2 comments. First, does anyone else but me think that Haynesworth isn't really that important to our defense? While he is a very good player, he is injured often and has a tendency to be unmotivated. Also, Washburn seems to turn everyone into a star DT. Second, Vince has shown that he is not the quarterback of the future through his skills. His skill set does not include good footwork or accuracy. Because of this, do you see the Titans drafting another quarterback soon? And since we'll probably be in the 20-30 pick range, who would you see as a possible fit next year?

Paul Kuharsky: I'm sure there are others who think as you do. I think you are overreaching on Haynesworth not being that important. He was very important, often the best player they had on the field and made life easier for the other 10 guys.

If he took plays off, as a Titans beat guy named Terry McCormick has pointed out, the defenses assigning double teams to him didn't know which ones they would be. Haynesworth looked plenty motivated to me over the last two years. That doesn't make him worth the contract he got, and it doesn't mean he's irreplaceable.

The Titans are now a smallish interior D, at least among their best guys.

Washburn turns a lot of guys into good players, absolutely. You might be overstating just a little to say he turns "everyone into a star DT." Randy Starks ring a bell? Antonio Johnson? Jesse Mahelona? Jared Clauss?

I would expect the Titans will be looking to draft a QB next year. He doesn't have to be a first-rounder, and I can't pretend to know who would fit.


Nathan in N.Y. writes: How are the Texans going to break .500 if glass-jawed Matt Schaub can't manage to start 16 games and they replaced maligned but halfway decent Sage Rosenfels with a guy last seen running out the back of his own endzone?

Paul Kuharsky: Schaub staying healthy is a must for the Texans. I wasn't big on the Dan Orlovsky signing either -- even if you love him, you overpaid and messed up the backup quarterback market. But ...

The "halfway decent" Rosenfels you mentioned wasn't regarded as much when he arrived in Houston, either. Gary Kubiak is pretty good with signal-callers, and gets the benefit of the doubt here that he will be able to turn Orlovsky into something better and the Texans will still have a chance to win a game if Schaub can't go.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Travis LaBoy collected $8 million in 13 months as a member of the Arizona Cardinals, who cut him Tuesday.

 
  AP Photo/J.D. Pooley
  Former Titan Travis LaBoy was cut by the Cardinals after just one season with the club.

The return on that investment: Thirteen games, 38 tackles, four sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

There wasn't a huge uproar in Nashville when the Titans didn't try to retain LaBoy when he hit unrestricted free agency last year. LaBoy had produced well in 2007 in a sort of platoon arrangement with Antwan Odom -- in 13 games he had six sacks and an interception.

Still, some fans used the fact that the Titans allowed both LaBoy and Odom (who jumped to Cincinnati) to walk in free agency as an example of the franchise's unwillingness to write big checks.

I've maintained they're willing to write big checks, just for a narrower group of players than fans might like.

So a year later, it's pretty clear who had the better read on LaBoy, who's tendency to get hurt was one of the reasons the Cardinals pulled the plug on him. The Titans reached the same conclusion, just $8 million earlier.

The question that will inevitably arrive in my mailbag is, would the Titans want LaBoy back?

With a few recent exceptions, the team doesn't circle back to old guys. They would have the same injury concerns with him. But being a year away from potentially losing Kyle Vanden Bosch, Jevon Kearse or Dave Ball in free agency, the Titans could use some long-term depth. If they even considered LaBoy, though, it would be only at bargain basement prices.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Some readers have already hit my mailbox to ask about compensatory draft picks.

The complex formula that determines who gets what is a bit of a mystery. But not so much to AdamJT13.

He's had success in the past predicting picks the NFL will award to help offset free-agent losses from a year ago. In this blog entry he predicts:

  • The Titans will get a fourth-rounder for Antwan Odom.
  • The Colts will get a fourth-rounder for Jake Scott.
  • The Titans will get a fifth-rounder for Travis LaBoy.
  • The Titans will get a sixth-rounder for Randy Starks.
  • The Titans will get a seventh-rounder for Ben Hartsock.
  • The Jaguars will get a seventh-rounder for Terry Cousin. [Correcting an earlier version where I missed this, thanks to spectre4372.]

Compensatory selections are untradeable, but make it a lot easier for teams to trade other picks.

Our code-breaker doesn't forecast any compensatory picks for Houston. He does have the Jaguars on a list of teams that could get another one if things break differently than he projects.

If these predictions come true, they would give the Titans a grand total of 10 picks, the Colts a grand total of eight picks and the Jaguars a grand total of seven.

A review of what the three teams have before compensatory picks are awarded.

Tennessee -- six picks

First round: 30th overall
Second round: 62nd
Third round: 94th

Also: 30th in the fourth round, 30th in the sixth round, 30th in the seventh round. Their fifth-round pick was traded to Dallas.

Indianapolis -- seven picks

First round: 27th overall
Second round: 61st
Third round: 92nd

Also: 27th in the fourth round, 29th in the fifth round, 28th in the sixth round, 27th in the seventh round.

Jacksonville -- six picks

First round -- Eighth overall
Second round -- 39th
Third round -- 72nd overall

Also: Seventh in the fourth round; eighth in the fifth round; seventh in the sixth round. Seventh-round pick was traded to Tampa Bay.

For a bit more about AdamJT13's track record, see this entry from Mike Sando over in the NFC West headquarters.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

A newsier day in the AFC South. Here's what you need to read ...

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

  • A man who says he was shot by Colts receiver Marvin Harrison was convicted of a misdemeanor.

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • New GM Gene Smith has control of the roster and contracts, reports Vito Stellino.
  • The buck now stops with Smith, says Gene Frenette.
  • Former Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich is hoping the Super Bowl is his last game as a backup, writes Frenette.

Tennessee Titans

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

The Titans did it gradually. The Jets had a big swoop.

But the two teams that square off Sunday in Nashville share a quality that has helped set them apart from a lot of teams in the NFL: They have hit on veteran free agents who have been productive and helped shape their team's culture.

The Jets are getting good production out of guard Alan Faneca as well as linebacker Calvin Pace. Right tackle Damien Woody has been OK. (Trades for Brett Favre and Kris Jenkins have obviously been big too, but we're sticking to free agents here.) The Titans are better on the offensive line with Jake Scott at right guard, and made solid additions in the last few years with cornerback Nick Harper and linebacker David Thornton.

Other hits so far from the 2008 free agent class include running back Michael Turner in Atlanta, defensive end Travis LaBoy in Arizona, defensive end Justin Smith in San Francisco, linebacker Kawika Mitchell in Buffalo and center Jeff Faine in Tampa Bay.

But plenty of other teams have swung and missed with significant deals for players they hoped would be cures -- Jacksonville with receiver Jerry Porter and cornerback Drayton Florence, Cleveland with Donte' Stallworth, Miami with defensive tackle Randy Starks and receiver Ernest Wilford and Oakland with receiver Javon Walker.

When a team brings in a guy with a big contract and high hopes and he fails to pan out early on, it hurts a team in multiple ways. A club misses the production, obviously, but can also be deflated by having failed in an attempt to get an immediate upgrade. It's a whiffed tackle or dropped pass that can haunt a team.

Both the Titans and the Jets have put a premium on personalities as they've brought guys in.

"When you bring in free agents it's also a function of how well they fit into the group that's already there," Jets coach Eric Mangini said. "How quickly they can stop being free agents and start being Jets? One of the things that has always been important to us is core characteristics with the people that we bring in and that's smart, tough, hard-working guys, guys that are competitive and selfless, and guys that football is important to."

"That's the draft, that's free agency and those are characteristics that we target before we even talk about their ability to play football."

That could have just as easily been Jeff Fisher talking about what the Titans have managed to do as they've shopped for veteran help.

Do it well as these two teams have and you might end up in one of the best games of Week 12, pitting a 10-0 team against a 7-3 division leader.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider