By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — Even though its their offseason, the NFL continues to dominate the news, and the Titans are proving no exception as roster changes are reshaping the identity of a team that reached last year’s AFC title game. Nothing has shocked fans more than the departure of defensive line stalwart Jurrell Casey. He was unceremoniously traded last week to the Denver Broncos for a seventh-round draft choice. It was without question a strict salary dump, with the Titans saving reportedly $13 million on the salary cap. Having franchised Derrick Henry, the thinking in some circles is this money will now be used to get a long-term agreement signed before July, when the franchise tag would take effect.
Casey was a team captain, had made the Pro Bowl multiple times, and had been on the team longer than anyone except punter Brett Kern. His loss will be felt much more than that of either linebacker Cameron Wake or kicker Ryan Succop. The same holds true for QB Marcus Mariota and tight end Delanie Walker. Both were key members of the team for years, but ineffectiveness in Mariota’s case and injury in Walker’s led to them eventually becoming less valuable and ultimately departing. The same holds true for running back Dion Lewis, once seen as a key third down contributor, but by season’s end barely playing at all.
Plus more changes have both occurred and may still be coming. At press time, there were stories circulating regarding the possible acquisition of Jadeveon Clowney. The former Houston Texan and Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman is a free agent, and Tennessee is one of the teams vying for his services. Former Atlanta Falcons defensive end Vic Beasley also signed last week with the Titans. He has a one-year deal for $9.5 million guaranteed, with the possibility of earning up to $12 million.
Another big change regards the offensive line. The Titans signed Dennis Kelly to a three-year deal last week. The reported terms were for $21 million, $8.75 guaranteed. With former starting tackle Jack Conklin now gone to Cleveland in a free agent deal, Kelly looks to inherit the right tackle spot. The Titans still haven’t reached an agreement with either inside linebacker Wesley Woodyard or cornerback Logan Ryan. So the only sure thing one can currently say about the Titans is next year’s team will look a lot different. Only time and the season (if there is one) will determine whether they’ve improved, stayed the same, or slipped back.