Tennessee Titans: 2014 NFL Free Agency

 

Chris Johnson has found a new home, and it’s with the New York Jets.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reports it’s a two-year deal. ProFootballTalk says it has "a base value of $8 million, with another $1 million available in incentives based on yardage." I still want to see the guarantee and the structure to have a real sense of it. Johnson was due an $8 million base salary this year with the Titans before they cut him.

He could be great for the Jets. If Johnson plays well there, keep in mind it doesn't mean he would have played well in Nashville.

I see two big questions ahead for him.
  1. How does he react to what’s likely to be a reduced role? He was THE centerpiece of the Titans' offense for the bulk of his time in Tennessee. Will the Jets be selling him as that or giving him a narrower role and not talking constantly about their desire to give him 20 carries a game? The role is likely to be narrower, and he’s a guy who understandably wants the ball and enjoys NFL stardom. He’s been a good teammate, though not necessarily a great team guy. What direction do things go with that?
  2. How does he handle the New York press when things don’t go well? Fair or not, a good share of Jets fans will view him as an offensive savior. If he averages 3.9 yards a carry as he did for the Titans last year, if he fails to break an occasional tackle in the backfield, if he suggests the negative issue is with the offensive line or play calling, a giant press corps will be more difficult for him to deal with than our small group in Nashville ever was.
For his first three years in the NFL, Chris Johnson was one of the most underpaid backs in the NFL. He made about $7.7 million.

For the last three years, he's been more than fairly compensated -- collecting $34 million.

So to those who think life is unfair for Johnson right now, I'd say it's as easy to look at him as fortunate as well as unfortunate.

If Johnson was drafted years earlier, he would have been very well paid. But if he was in the 2014 draft, he would never line up for anything close to $41.7 million in his career.

His career has straddled a seismic shift in the economics for running backs.

ESPN.com's Ashley Fox runs through the harsh realities of that.

It's tough timing for CJ now. He'll likely get a reduced role and a contract with an annual value of $4 million or less. But at least he had six years of the old economics.

Going forward, here's a look at the Titans and running back money:

Titans' running back base-salary cash costs in 2014: Shonn Greene $2.3M, Dexter McCluster $1M, Jackie Battle $855k, draft pick $435k. Total $4.589M.

Titans' running back salary-cap costs in 2014: Greene $3.23M, McCluster $4M, Battle $570k, draft pick $435k + prorated piece of bonus. Total $8.235M + prorated bonus for the rookie.
Shaun Phillips looks to be the one, best remaining option for the Tennessee Titans in free agency in terms of finding a pass-rush boost.

Phillips
The free-agent defensive end from Denver recorded 10 sacks for the Broncos out of their 4-3 last season. But for the vast majority of nine seasons before that he was an outside linebacker in a 3-4 in San Diego, and that's where he'd line up for the Titans, who are transitioning to that front.

He has 79.5 career sacks since being drafted by the Chargers, who selected him out of Purdue in the fourth round in 2004.

Here's a scouting report from ESPN's Bill Polian:
Phillips wound up being the only legitimate edge rusher for Denver's defense in 2013, and even though age may be a factor (he'll be 33 this offseason) it's hard to imagine that the Broncos would let him leave. He is decent versus the run with good effort and chase but his game is all about getting to the QB. Phillips takes good angles to the ball, closes well and is a finisher who makes a lot of plays.

If the contract is short enough and the price is reasonable enough, he'd be a great addition and he would lessen the pressure on the Titans to land an impact edge-rusher early in the draft.

UPDATE, 5:29 p.m.: Mike Garafolo and Jim Wyatt both report a deal is done. Two years and a max value of $6 million with $2.5 million guaranteed fit the parameters I just mentioned. Good get, I think.
ESPN.com Insider Mike Sando has teamed up with some of our personnel people to offer grades on free agency so far.

They gave the Tennessee Titans a "C." Fourteen of the teams were given a better grade at this point.

The group rated Dexter McCluster, whom the Titans regard as a running back, as the best of the five outside additions.

"Of the guys they added, the only one that will make somewhat of a difference -- and I wonder how much -- would be McCluster," Louis Riddick said. "They are already pretty strong at wideout. Who is he going to replace in the slot? He will not take Kendall Wright's reps. He is not an outside receiver. Will he be more of a (Darren) Sproles type?"

I think that's exactly what the Titans intend McCluster to be.
As of Monday the Tennessee Titans have $10,737,702 in salary cap room, without factoring in their deal with kick returner Leon Washington.

That’s a nice chunk of change -- and there is another $6 million to be saved when the Chris Johnson divorce happens.

Numerous readers have asked me, if the Titans are in such good shape, why not keep Johnson?

If you are paying too much for something, do you keep paying it just because you have the money to do so?

That doesn’t seem to qualify as smart spending to me.

As for the $10.7 million -- it doesn’t have to be burning a hole in their pocket. They can spend some now as they see fit, and save some and carry it over to 2015. They can spend it then on premier people.

Teams have to spend 89 percent of their cap dollars over four years spanning from 2013 to 2016.

The Titans still have plenty of time to do that.

And let’s remember that some of it’s going to go to core players they want to re-sign, presumably Jurrell Casey and Kendall Wright with them hoping for more to emerge.
Damian Williams doesn’t rank as a big-ticket free agent by any means.

In four seasons with the Titans, he’s been a role player, not a front-liner.

In 54 games he had 17 starts, pulling in 106 catches for 1,313 yards and five touchdowns.

The free-agent market is loaded with wide receivers -- or perhaps we should say was. Since free agency opened March 11, 33 veteran receivers have signed.

Williams, however, remains unsigned and his name has not been out there at all that I have seen or heard.

I’m told the Titans remain interested.

Here's Bill Polian's scouting report :
Williams is a perimeter wide receiver who has enough trigger and wiggle to generate separation at the top of his routes on those that come back to the quarterback. While he has good speed, he does not show a knack for dislodging from man coverage down the field and in competitive catch situations. A young wideout who can compete as a fourth receiver but has the ceiling to be a No. 2 or 3 if he realizes his maximum potential.

I think Williams is a good piece to have. He was rated as the smartest receiver in the group’s meeting room last season and can line up at every position. That’s a nice thing to have in a team’s fourth guy.

Right now, Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter and Nate Washington are the top three at the position. The fourth spot should belong to Michael Preston and Marc Mariani could rank fifth. But Williams is better and more proven than both.

The Titans have re-signed five of their own free agents already in safety Bernard Pollard, end Ropati Pitoitua, running back Jackie Battle, return man Leon Washington and Mariani.

Tennessee has expressed some interest in Nate Burleson. But it’s a deep draft at receiver.

Maybe they will look to upgrade on Williams. But I think they need a better fourth guy than they have right now, and bringing back Williams would help them.
Bill O'Brien, Ryan FitzpatrickGetty ImagesRyan Fitzpatrick, left, offers Bill O'Brien's Texans stability as they search for their QB of the future.
The Houston Texans' quarterback shuffling started in earnest Thursday night with some inter-division trading when the Texans signed Ryan Fitzpatrick less than a week after the Tennessee Titans released him. Fitzpatrick said on a conference call today that he’s coming in to compete, and that Bill O’Brien hasn’t boxed him into a “mentor” role or anything else just yet. But his ability to mentor whatever young quarterback joins the Texans' roster (or even one of the young guys currently there) will be important for the Texans this year.

Here, ESPN Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky and I tackle Fitzpatrick’s move from both angles. So Paul, what kind of relationship did Fitzpatrick have with Titans quarterback Jake Locker as the two intersected in Locker’s third NFL season?

Kuharsky: They got along well. There was no tension about who was in what role. Locker won the starting job from Matt Hasselbeck a year earlier. The Titans thought Hasselbeck was starting to fade and was too expensive, so they cut him and brought on Fitzpatrick. Everyone knows he’s smart since he went to Harvard. I think he’ll be a good resource for a draft pick to lean on in terms of how to be a pro and all of that.

Is the sense in Houston that while Fitz throws too many picks, he’s a cheaper option to keep the seat warm and be a resource for a draft pick than Matt Schaub would have been?

Ganguli: There is no parameter under which it didn’t make sense to do this for the Texans. They had to move on; Schaub’s time was done. They just needed to make sure to get something for him. Fitzpatrick is cheaper while offering some of the same things Schaub would have offered on the field and in the classroom. They replaced what would have been an $11 million salary for 2014, which includes a $10 million base and $1 million in per-game roster bonuses, with Fitzpatrick, who will make $4 million this year.

You addressed why the Titans cut Hasselbeck, but why did they cut Fitzpatrick last week?

Kuharsky: GM Ruston Webster said they just didn’t play well enough when Fitzpatrick was at quarterback last season, and that’s fair. I have trouble imagining Charlie Whitehurst will be better -- at least Fitzpatrick has some real experience. But Whitehurst was with Ken Whisenhunt in San Diego last season, and the Titans avoided a roster bonus and saved $3.25 million by parting with Fitzpatrick.

He’s very much a shotgun guy who is not very comfortable under center. How do you see that fitting with Bill O’Brien?

Ganguli: O’Brien is adaptable, and I think he’ll be able to work with that. Intelligence, size and at least some mobility are important for O’Brien’s quarterbacks as they will be asked to process a lot. I think those things are in line with what they will get with Fitzpatrick.

One thing that was interesting from Fitzpatrick’s conference call today is that he said being released by the Titans turned out to be a good thing for him. He said he had a lot of options and wound up in what he considers a better situation. What do you make of that?

Kuharsky: No player who just got dumped says where he lands is a worse situation. But he could have avoided that topic altogether. We have a lot to learn about both the Titans and Texans with their new coaching staffs and schemes. Obviously the Texans have some talent. But this idea that they can bounce back into a playoff-caliber team from 2-14 in a year is getting a little tired for me. Both the Texans and the Titans have new coaching staffs. I’m not so certain the one that finished five games worse is the better situation.

Fitzpatrick said he drew a lot of interest. What was the draw of O’Brien?

Ganguli: Sounds like two smart football minds were drawn together. They're both Ivy League guys, though somehow you were let into an Ivy League school, so maybe that doesn't mean anything. I kid, I kid. Seriously though, to hear Fitzpatrick talk about his affinity for the mental aspect of the game and the strategy sounds a lot like what you hear about why O'Brien loves football. Fitzpatrick is also very well connected around the league, as you know, and he's talked with plenty of people who know O'Brien well and spoke very highly of him. "Not only his mind and the way that he thought about football, but treating guys fairly and demanding the best out of you and all that stuff," Fitzpatrick said. "It was nothing but positive reports from people I really trust."
The Titans aren’t waffling on value, and their fans should take that as a good thing.

Chris Johnson is not going to be on the 2014 Titans, because they can’t make an $8 million base salary and 3.9 yards per carry from 2013 jibe.

Object to Charlie Whitehurst if you will, but the production they got from Ryan Fitzpatrick didn’t match up to a $500,000 roster bonus and a $3.25 million base salary.

And while Rob Bironas was still a good field goal kicker, they are parting ways with him because they don’t feel his production is worth a $250,000 roster bonus due this week, along with the subsequent $2.875 million base salary.

Bironas' performance on kickoffs has taken a step backward over the past three seasons; 56.4 percent of his kickoffs were touchbacks in 2011, 50 percent in 2012 and 38.6 percent in 2013.

That’s a sign of diminishing leg strength.

His field goal accuracy is still good, but compared to his peers, he's not what he once was.

In 2010 he ranked third in field goal percentage, in 2011 fourth, in 2012 26th and in 2013 20th.

The team did well to find and develop Bironas in 2005.

The Titans will now look to follow the same course in 2014.
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.
People who know a lot more about offensive tackle production than I do were not wild about Michael Oher's work product in Baltimore in 2013.

Oher
That doesn’t mean he can’t be a solid or very good right tackle for the Tennessee Titans. But he’ll have to play better than he did in a down year for the entire Ravens offense to justify a deal ESPN reported as four-year, $20 million contract with $9.5 million guaranteed.

Those numbers weren't exact.

Oher received a $4 million signing bonus with a guaranteed 2014 base salary of $2 million. Then $3.35 million of his 2015 base salary for 2015 is guaranteed only for injury.

So it's $6 million guaranteed now. With potential for $3.35 million more in 2015. If Oher is healthy, the Titans can get out of the deal after one season at a cost of $6 million with no further expense.

There is a tryout element here.

Oher has bases salaries of $4 million in 2015, and $5 million in 2016 and 2017.

This morning he was a guest on The Wake Up Zone in Nashville and was asked how he rated his performance last season.

“My play last year? Our entire offense, we struggled a little bit,” he said. “We had guys banged up injured. We lost Dennis Pitta, he was gone for most of the season. Anquan Boldin went out to the 49ers. Ray Rice got hurt. Out backup running back got hurt. I think all that fell into play on the entire offense. And it was just a lot of adjusting.

“For me personally, I don’t think I played too bad. I think people watch me a little bit harder than a lot of other offensive linemen because I might be a little more known. So I get a lot of the blame and people don’t really know what’s going on in meetings rooms and stuff like that. That’s why I figure you asked me this question. How do you think I played? What, you think I played bad or something?”

I appreciate his candor for sure, but am surprised he didn’t say he didn’t have the year he’d hoped for.

“I think I played all right, me personally. I work hard every single day. I love the game of football, I expect a lot out of myself, and hopefully I can get things rolling in Tennessee and help us win some games.”

You can listen to the entire interview here.

Free-agency review: Titans

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
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Most significant signing: It’s hard to call one of the Titans' five additions the most significant. That’s either a testament to the class or an indictment. Right tackle Michael Oher is the only one who’s a guaranteed starter right out of the gate, so we’ll tab the former Baltimore Ravens first-round draft pick, who also got the biggest contract -- four years, $20 million with $9.5 million guaranteed.

Oher
Most significant loss: Alterraun Verner is the only Titans free agent who left, receiving a four-year, $24.5 million contract with Tampa Bay. The cornerback is a very good player who will be a great fit for what the Buccaneers want to do. The Titans were prepared all along to lose him and will promote from within.

Biggest surprise: That the Titans wanted to go a different direction with their veteran backup quarterback. Their choice to replace Ryan Fitzpatrick was a stunner. Charlie Whitehurst has been around a long time, but he’s hardly played, and when he has, it has not been pretty. He was with Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt in San Diego last season.

What’s next? The Titans had no visitors on Monday and I think they are going to pause and assess what’s out there and what they want to do in a second wave. They’ve failed to find pass-rushing help and the market is thin, but Shaun Phillips from Denver is coming off a productive year and could be a target.
Tuesday marks a week since free agency opened. Let's look at what has unfolded for the Tennessee Titans to this point.

Newcomers

RB Dexter McCluster (Kansas City) -- He looks to be more a running back than a receiver in their initial thinking. Catching passes out of the backfield will likely be his biggest role in Ken Whisenhunt’s offense.

DL Al Woods (Pittsburgh) -- The Titans have looked at a lot of versatile defensive linemen, and Woods is the one they’ve managed to add so far. He can play anywhere on a three-man line but provides a nice option in the middle.

LB Wesley Woodyard (Denver) -- He’ll bring quality leadership and is expected to fit comfortably as a 3-4 inside linebacker, a spot at which the Titans need to continue to upgrade their options.

QB Charlie Whitehurst -- A veteran quarterback who’s hardly played but was in Whisenhunt’s offense last year in San Diego. Will have more of a chance at playing time behind Jake Locker than he did behind Philip Rivers.

RT Michael Oher -- A big, durable, physical offensive lineman who’s in line to take over at right tackle. He’s been penalty prone and hasn’t progressed a ton in five years with the Ravens, but if he improves, he could be a big answer.

Visitors who remain unsigned

LB Akeem Jordan (Kansas City) -- Could be a good option as the short-area inside linebacker.

DT Pat Sims (Oakland) -- A run stopper who could likely contribute on run downs.

Re-signed

SS Bernard Pollard -- The outspoken thumper did a lot to help restore the Titans to relevance last season and fits very nicely with Michael Griffin in the middle of the Titans' secondary. Sounded fired up about the new regime.

DE Ropati Pitoitua -- A giant defensive end who did some good work in the 4-3 last season. He’s even better cast for the new hybrid front that will have a significant 3-4 element.

KR Leon Washington -- He settled the return game down substantially after he joined the team late in the season. McCluster could render Washington redundant, but starting out with multiple options for the return game is a good thing.

RB Jackie Battle -- The Titans are heading toward a committee of running backs. Battle should be the backup to the Shonn Greene piece of it plus a special teamer.

Signed away

CB Alterraun Verner (Tampa Bay) -- A very productive corner who was the Titans’ lone Pro Bowler in 2013. They never expected to get him back, and though his price wasn’t what his agent expected, he bolted to be part of the Cover-2 Lovie Smith will run.

Released

RT David Stewart -- Beat up and expensive after nine seasons, he sounded like he’s leaning strongly to retirement after he got the news from the only organization for which he’s played.

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick -- Interception prone and too streaky, he still ranked as a serviceable veteran backup in a bleak landscape for them. Whitehurst takes his place and saved the Titans a $500,000 roster bonus.

Still out there

WR Kenny Britt -- Interest in a reclamation project is reportedly coming from St. Louis, New England and Washington.

G-C Chris Spencer -- He’s a player the Titans could use back to work behind Andy Levitre, Brian Schwenke and Chance Warmack.

DT Antonio Johnson -- Has 3-4 experience from Indianapolis but with Woods added Johnson hardly ranks as a priority at this point.

WR Damian Williams -- A smart and versatile receiver. He can be good as the fourth or fifth guy, but it's a loaded free-agent pool and draft class at receiver.

Also: C Kevin Matthews, OT Mike Otto, QB Rusty Smith, C Rob Turner, RS-WR Marc Mariani.
About that four-year, $20 million contract with $9.5 million guaranteed for Michael Oher from the Tennessee Titans ...

Oher
Have I mentioned how much I like the addition of linebacker Wesley Woodyard?

I'm always a skeptic and looking at this addition at the price, I'm not moving off of that.

Oher did not draw good reviews last year and that's not a great sign for a guy who was heading toward free agency.

"Michael is a big, strong, durable player," Titans general manager Ruston Webster said in the release announcing the deal. "Like we have said with a number of players we added this week, he has versatility with experience playing both left and right tackle during his NFL career. We are excited to have Michael as part of the Titans family."

Big, check. Strong, check. Durable, check. Versatile, check.

Those are four attributes the Titans are correct to want. But Webster didn't mention a couple of other biggies, starting with "productive."

The Ravens had financial constraints, but still didn't think Oher was talented enough to make a push to keep him. Their right tackle now could be left guard Kelechi Osemele, could be a draft pick or could be Rick Wagner, a fifth-round pick from a year ago.

The Titans' primary competition for Oher looked like it would be the Raiders, whose search for tackle help was botched from the start when they backed out of a deal with Rodger Saffold by failing him on his physical.

Bill Polian isn't particularly high on Oher:
Strictly a right tackle, Oher's off-the-field story is more compelling than his play of late. He has adequate size and ability for the position but consistently underwhelmed as a run blocker this past season while showing to be very average when left alone in protection.

Polian's word isn't gospel, but that's an underwhelming review.

[+] EnlargeMichael Oher
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesMichael Oher, left, is viewed as an underwhelming tackle given his size and athleticism.
ESPN.com Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley has covered Oher's career since he was the 23rd pick overall out of Ole Miss in 2009. I asked Hensley if Oher has regressed in those four years.

"I don't believe Oher has regressed, he just never progressed," he said. "He's basically the same player who entered the league in 2009. Oher is durable and hard-nosed. He's a throwback type of a player who has that right tackle, mauler mentality. Where he struggles is mental mistakes (false starts have always been a problem) and pass protection.

"I was surprised that Oher got a deal that averaged $5 million per season. You could do a lot worse at right tackle than Oher. And maybe the market dictated paying him that deal. In my mind, if Eugene Monroe got $7.5 million per season from the Ravens as a left tackle, Oher should've received half that amount."

I made the rounds on Friday night with scouts, tackles and defensive ends to get opinions. (Low hit rate. Turns out people have better stuff to do on a Friday night than answer my texts.)

"A better Ephraim Salaam," one veteran NFL offensive tackle said. "Better right tackle than left tackle. A little overrated IMO. Long arms, good punch. Will be vastly different than [David] Stewart. Stewart was a mauler/street fighter. Oher is physically talented but not nearly as physical."

"He's not aggressive but not soft, either," an active defensive lineman in the AFC South told me. "He's pretty solid but beatable at times. ... Well at least we know we have one guy we can take advantage of twice a year for the next four years."

A scout said Oher is like Levi Brown and Gosder Cherilus.

Brown was released by Pittsburgh at the start of the month. He went to the Steelers in a trade from offensive-line needy Arizona during the 2013 season. He went on IR 11 days after Pittsburgh acquired him.

Cherilus got a giant free-agent contract last year from Indianapolis: Five years, $34.5 million with $15.5 million guaranteed. He played pretty well in his first season with the Colts, who had a terrible interior line.

ESPN.com resident scout Matt Williamson said: "I would say he is a very middle of the road starting NFL RT, but at least young and has room for improvement."

Oher tweeted this Friday evening:

Alterraun Verner made a graceful exit from Tennessee as he signed a four-year, $25.5 million free-agent deal with Tampa Bay.

He appeared on The Midday 180 in Nashville as our guest Friday largely to say thanks to Titans fans.

Verner said he expected some heat for leaving, but that the Titans' fanbase has been largely congratulatory.

[+] EnlargeAlterraun Verner
Don McPeak/USA TODAY SportsAlterraun Verner was the Titans' lone Pro Bowl selection last season.
He was polite, professional and not angry, but also said the Titans didn’t always make him feel loved and appreciated. In free agency, feeling loved is crucial.

You can hear the interview I’m about to quote from here.

I’m fine with the Titans' ultimate plan to allow Coty Sensabaugh or Blidi Wreh-Wilson to win the open starting spot, just as Verner won it when Cortland Finnegan left. I know Tennessee was the victim of its own accurate pricing -- if the Titans offered a deal at the end of last season averaging $6.5 million a year, Verner’s agent would have scoffed. Yet that’s what he ultimately got from the Buccaneers.

“That’s why I said the money really isn't the issue because in some sense, Tennessee kind of [ultimately] offered something around where I'm at now,” Verner said. “It's not really the money that was the issue. It's kind of rooted a little bit deeper than that. So maybe if they would have did this offer before the season started or maybe during the season, maybe I would have did it, but once the season ended, it was going to take a little bit more -- not necessarily money -- but just different ways of approaching the whole situation, they would have had to do a little different for me to probably come back and consider coming back."

So did the Titans undervalue him in non-financial ways?

"In answering that question, I think it's very tough because there's a lot of changeover, new coaches and everything like that,” he said. “At times, I felt that I could have been undervalued or maybe not appreciated enough. You know, I don't need to get slaps on the back or pampered or anything like that. I've never been that type of person or player to really want that. But at times I felt like I'm being demeaned or being put under when I felt like I'm being a professional, I'm doing everything right.

“I practice, I play every game -- hurt or not hurt -- I don't really complain and I'm a team player. But at certain points I feel like I gained, or should have earned, more respect at certain areas. It would take too long to go real deep into it or anything like that. It's not like I'm saying that the front office or coaches or anybody is bad or treated me mean or anything, there's just certain things that they could have did a little bit different or that they did do that wasn't the most ideal or most respectful way of doing things."

Here’s some leftover ill effects from the poor job Jerry Gray did as the Titans' defensive coordinator for the past three years. In both 2012 and 2013, Gray pushed hard for the bigger, faster Tommie Campbell to win the job opposite Jason McCourty.

Verner consistently outplayed Campbell. Everyone should have to compete for his job, of course. But the way Gray propped up Campbell was a joke, and I imagine Verner resented it to some degree.

Surely that at least played a part of what he’s referring to when he says there were times he felt “demeaned” or “put under.”

He’s landed in a good spot. Like virtually everyone else who follows the team, I wish him well and expect big things.
The Titans have added a versatile linebacker who will enhance their flexibility at the position as they go with a hybrid front featuring at least a share of 3-4.

Woodyard
Wesley Woodyard has agreed to terms with the Titans. He texted ESPN's Josina Anderson: "I'm about to sign with the Titans."

Woodyard was the second leading tackler on the Denver Broncos in 2013 with 83. The Broncos use press box statistics rather than their own coaching totals for tackles, as most teams do. He had 1.5 sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.

Denver ran a base 4-3 and Woodyard started 10 games at middle linebacker.

Bill Polian's scouting report on him:
His stats are impressive and he is credited with a lot of tackles, but when you watch him closely a lot of that production comes after the ball carrier is on the second level. He has the versatility to play inside and outside, but isn't always stout at the point of attack versus the inside run, partially because of a lingering neck strain suffered early in the season. Woodyard's cover skills are still solid.

Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean reports it's a four-year deal worth up to $14 million.

The first numbers that we have coming in on many new deals usually become more reasonable when we find out how much of the "up to" part is incentives.

While Akeem Ayers and Kamerion Wimbley easily project to outside linebackers in a 3-4, it's less clear how others like Zach Brown, Moise Fokou, Colin McCarthy, Zaviar Gooden and Patrick Bailey will fit in.

Woodyard, 6-feet tall and 233 pounds, was reportedly better and more comfortable on the weakside than in the middle.

He's been a captain for the Broncos, so the Titans are also acquiring leadership.

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