The Tennessee Titans made a huge jump forward in 2016, going from 3-13 to 9-7 after one offseason. While they didn’t accomplish everything they had hoped, that was quite the improvement from one year to the next.
Now, they need to take the next step and reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008. With an estimated $67 million to spend and not many key free agents, the Titans are set up to do just that.
Here are five free agents they should target on the open market when it begins on March 9.
CB Morris Claiborne (Cowboys)
Claiborne has been plagued by injuries in his first five seasons, but his first seven games of 2016 gave a glimpse at what he can be going forward. He was playing like a true shutdown corner in the first half of the season before he was injured, locking down receivers who came to his side of the ball. A short-term deal is likely in his future once again, presumably in the range of $5 million to $6 million. If that’s the case, the Titans would be wise to take a chance on Claiborne, similarly to the way the Jaguars did with Prince Amukamara last year.
OLB Nick Perry (Packers)
Brian Orakpo is a decent pass rusher, but the Titans could use a player to complement him on the other side. Perry had a breakout season in 2016, and there’s plenty of reason to believe he’ll continue this upward swing. He would fit nicely opposite Orakpo as a pure pass rusher who is also aggressive against the run. His price point has yet to be determined because of the fact that he’s somewhat of a one-year wonder, but that should work in the Titans’ favor. He won’t be as expensive as someone like Melvin Ingram.
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S Eric Berry (Chiefs)
Berry might not reach free agency if the Chiefs opt to tag him against his wishes. If he does, he’ll be sought after by 15-plus teams. The Titans have to be among them. They’re desperate for a playmaking safety, something they haven’t had since Michael Griffin was in his prime. Berry is scheme-versatile in the fact that he can play free safety or strong safety, while also possessing the ability to match up with tight ends one-on-one. He’d be expensive – likely the highest-paid safety in the NFL – but the Titans have money to spend.
WR Alshon Jeffery (Bears)
Marcus Mariota is a budding star in the NFL. He’s become one without much help from his skill-position players. The Titans are thin at wide receiver with Kendall Wright becoming a free agent and Rishard Matthews more of a secondary target. Jeffery is the premier free-agent receiver, and is a player the Titans can certainly afford. Although GM Jon Robinson is trying to set a precedent by adding team-first guys, Jeffery would be worth the character concerns for the Titans. He would give Mariota a big target in the red zone, where he’s already been among the best in the NFL.
CB Trumaine Johnson (Rams)
The Titans had one of the worst secondaries in the NFL last season, allowing the third-most passing yards. They need help at every starting spot in the defensive backfield, namely cornerback. Johnson is a big, physical corner who loves to play press-man, which would fit well with the culture Mike Mularkey is trying to establish in Tennessee. Not to mention, he’s a pretty darn good cover guy, too. He thrives when he gets his hands on receivers at the line, but he can fit in a variety of schemes.