Titans see Dexter McCluster as key add to offense
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans made sure they signed Dexter McCluster as their first big move in free agency. They’ll figure out exactly how to use the running back, receiver and Pro Bowl punt returner once they get him on the practice field.
McCluster signed his deal Wednesday afternoon, a day after agreeing to terms on a three-year, $12 million contract. The Titans also signed defensive lineman Al Woods to a multiyear contract and waived right tackle David Stewart for a failed physical.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said they really appreciate McCluster’s versatility whether at receiver or running back.
”I think he can do both,” Whisenhunt said. ”He’s shown that. I think part of what we get to do this spring is figure out. Right now the thought is more of a running back, but he can play in the slot and do some things in that capacity too. So we’re going to see what we can do with him.”
The 5-foot-8 McCluster, a second-round pick out of Mississippi, has played both running back and receiver. He flourished in 2013 as a slot receiver and punt returner in Kansas City, catching a career-high 53 passes for 611 yards and two touchdowns. He returned two punts for touchdowns as he earned his first Pro Bowl trip.
His best year as a running back came in 2011 when he averaged 4.5 yards per carry on 114 rushes, but the 170-pound McCluster has been much more consistent as a receiver with at least 46 catches in each of the past three years.
McCluster said he was happy to get back in the South and with Whisenhunt after watching what the new Titans coach did with Danny Woodhead as the Chargers’ offensive coordinator last season. Woodhead caught 76 passes for 605 yards and six touchdowns and also ran 106 times for 429 yards.
”I’ve obviously been able to be versatile,” McCluster said. ”So right now it’s going to be interesting to figure it out together what I’m going to do. So right now I don’t know. We don’t know. We just have to figure it out.”
The Titans agreed to a one-year deal Tuesday bringing back returner Leon Washington. Whisenhunt said he could envision using both McCluster and Washington on returns.
The Titans also are meeting with 49ers running back Anthony Dixon even with Chris Johnson still on the roster along with Shonn Greene and Jackie Battle. Whisenhunt said the Titans are looking for versatility.
These moves seem to signal the end of Johnson’s tenure in Tennessee. He is due $8 million in 2014 with three years left on his contract. He also is coming off a season in which he averaged a career-worst 3.9 yards per carry with 1,077 yards. Whisenhunt said he has not met yet with Johnson. Asked if they have talked by phone, Whisenhunt said he would keep that in-house.
Whisenhunt also said the Titans have no timeline for decisions on players who could be released a couple hours before they waived Stewart.
”We have to do what’s in the best interest for the Titans,” Whisenhunt said. ”That’s really what it’s all about.”
Stewart, a fourth-round draft pick out of Mississippi State in 2005, had started 116 games for the Titans since 2006. He broke his right leg Dec. 2, 2012, against the Texans. Even though he played 12 games last season, he rarely practiced while struggling with injuries. Stewart said late last season he expected he would need surgery during the offseason.
”He played the game with passion and brought a toughness that every team needs,” general manager Ruston Webster said in a statement. ”Dave was a player we have always been able to count on, and in our mind he will always be a Titan.”
Woods should add some versatility to Tennessee’s defensive line after playing both defensive end and nose tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Woods had been with the Steelers since getting claimed off waivers in November 2011. He had eight solo tackles, eight assists and two sacks in 16 games last season.
The terms and length of Woods’ deal weren’t disclosed.
”Al is a player with great size, strength and toughness,” Webster said in a team release announcing the Woods signing. ”He also has the ability to play all three spots on the defensive line, which adds to his value.”
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