Free-agent additions sharpen draft focus

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:45
PM ET
The Titans struck a two-year deal with their free-agent defensive tackle Antonio Johnson, according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Johnson
General manager Ruston Webster said earlier Tuesday that the Titans are turning their focus to the draft. Any remaining acquisitions in free agency will have to come to the team more than they will result from the Titans being aggressive in the market.

Tennessee has signed 10 players.

Five are returning -- safety Bernard Pollard, defensive end Ropati Pitoitua, return man Leon Washington, running back Jackie Battle and Johnson.

Five are newcomers –- Running back and returner Dexter McCluster, defensive lineman Al Woods, backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, inside linebacker Wesley Woodyard and right tackle Michael Oher.

With those and the returning roster, I think we can say the Titans really have only three significant holes -- pass rusher, running back and quarterback.

As for the rusher ...

With ends Derrick Morgan (who may be an outside linebacker now) and Pitoitua, with outside linebackers Akeem Ayers and Kamerion Wimbley and with penetrating lineman Jurrell Casey, who could line up in different spots on the line, the Titans have options.

They need more.

"It's definitely something that this year we are going to take a hard look at," Webster said. "I think scheme-wise, it helps us, it opens up more rushers for us. I think sometimes in the 4-3, if you're looking for guys that can really play the run and rush, it can be difficult to find those players.

"I think with what we are going to do defensively, it opens up more players to us that can rush. So they'll be some players I think all through the draft that can help us as rushers and we'll definitely look hard at that."

Beyond edge help, what do the the Titans now have to have?

Running back is going to be the other main priority, with Chris Johnson on his way out and the Titans in need of a guy to get a good chunk of carries along with Shonn Greene and with McCluster, Battle and maybe even Washington in the backfield mix.

I can see the Titans adding a quarterback, though where a rookie would find the practice snaps needed to develop would be a big question.

Woodyard
Inside linebacker has numbers, but perhaps not enough talent.

I see Woodyard competing with Zach Brown and Zaviar Gooden for weak inside linebacker, where Webster said the two young players project. But the team's newest linebacker could also play strong inside linebacker if he's a better option than Moise Fokou or Colin McCarthy.

One more guy there would be nice.

They could add a guy who might be ready in a year to replace Michael Roos at left tackle if they are ready to move on as his contract expires, or as insurance if Oher doesn't pan out and is washed from the books after one year.

With their work in free agency, the Titans have left themselves two clear-cut needs. I won't be surprised if they address edge rusher and running back them with their first two picks if possible, especially since they head into the draft without a third-rounder.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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