Tennessee Titans: Jared Allen

In 2009, Pittsburgh free-agent receiver Nate Washington signed a six-year, $26.8 million contract with Tennessee that included $9 million guaranteed.

In 2014, he is in line to play the final year of that deal.

What an anomaly.

Five- and six-year deals in the NFL are crafted to look pretty and sound good. But we regularly see guys cut before they get to the final year or two of scheduled money.

In 2008, defensive end Jared Allen signed a 6-year, $73.2 million contract with $31 million guaranteed with Minnesota. He played out that contract and is now weighing his options.

According to Evan Kaplan of ESPN Stats & Info, 31 players signed six-year deals in 2009. Twelve were rookies, which is different than a veteran changing teams.

Of the remaining 19, only Washington and Falcons receiver Roddy White are in line to play out their contracts. The rest either restructured their deals, signed new contracts or were cut and signed elsewhere.

Before I had those numbers, I asked Washington about how gratifying it would be to play out the entire contract.

"The person I am today is not who I was when I first got to Tennessee," Washington said. "They’ve been patient enough for me to grow into something that could be great for them. I appreciate the opportunity.

"I was born in Pittsburgh, and I was bred here in Nashville. This place truly gave me my opportunity to be a professional."

We are seeing shorter contracts these days. And many that are four-year deals, such as the one the Titans gave right tackle Michael Oher, could actually end rather painlessly for the team after just one year.

Signing bonuses can only be pro-rated over five years now. Still, New Orleans safety Jairus Byrd and Denver cornerback Aquib Talib just signed six-year contracts.

What kind of odds would you give them to be with the Saints and Broncos, respectively, in 2020?
NASHVILLE, Tenn. –- Pass-rushers have moved quickly at the start of NFL free agency.

Greg Hardy (tagged in Carolina) and Michael Bennett (re-signed by Seattle) never made it to market. Lamarr Houston jumped from Oakland to Chicago, and Michael Johnson went from Cincinnati to Tampa Bay.

That’s four of the top five guys on ESPN’s resident GM Bill Polian’s list of ends Insider.

But all four of those guys are coming out of 4-3 situations.

[+] EnlargeDeMarcus Ware
AP Photo/Kevin TerrellDeMarcus Ware would be expensive, but could give Tennessee's pass rush a boost.
So is Denver’s Shaun Phillips, though he’s played end in a 3-4 front, too. He’s 32, but had 10 sacks last season.

At the very least the Tennessee Titans will be a hybrid front, and I think they ultimately will want to be predominantly a 3-4.

Washington’s Brian Orakpo is the kind of player the Titans need. The Redskins franchised him.

The list of available linebackers doesn’t include any absolute certainties in terms of sacks.

Polian gave 29 linebackers Insider grades of C or better. Eight have signed or been tagged.

Of the remaining 21, outside linebackers with 3-4 experience coming off productive pass-rushing seasons are rare.

Lamar Woodley had 5 sacks for Pittsburgh, Parys Haralson had 3.5 for New Orleans, Matt Shaughnessy had 3 for Arizona, and Reggie Walker had 3 for San Diego.

Hardly a bumper crop.

That brings us to DeMarcus Ware. The former Dallas Cowboy, released Tuesday, is 31 and is going to cost a great deal. He was a 4-3 end last season and had 6 sacks. But in 2012 he was a 3-4 outside backer and 11.5.

The scouting report from Polian and the guys who helped build his free agent board:
Ware is an excellent veteran pass-rusher who brings a combination of length, first-step quickness, explosiveness and the flexibility to bend the edge. He can hold up as an edge-setter against the run and has the versatility to play in both a 4-3 and 3-4. A very good athlete with questions only stemming from durability and age (31). Will generate significant interest from teams all over the league.

Ware turns 32 on July 31.

Julius Peppers, a 4-3 end, just came free, too, and he’s 34. Jared Allen has played his whole career in a 4-3 and is 31.

Tuesday we discussed how the Titans didn’t appear to be afraid of age in free agency.

I’m not sure if that will apply to a costly, aging pass-rusher.

Maybe the Titans jump out and spend big on Ware. Maybe they add a Woodley or a versatile Shaughnessy and blend them in with Akeem Ayers and maybe Kamerion Wimbley and Zach Brown, if Brown turns out to be an outside rather than inside backer in the new scheme.

Just about every player the Titans could look at for rush help from this free-agent class has a wart -- be it age, production or scheme fit/versatility.

I wonder if the likelihood is already up that the Titans spend their first- or second-round pick on an end or outside linebacker with pass-rush skills they think will translate to the NFL.

And if they’ll concentrate on bigger defensive linemen, inside linebacker and/or offensive tackle in the meantime.