The Tennessee Titans headed into NFL free agency without a lot of cap room but with the air of a team ready to make moves. New team owner and CEO Tommy Smith had previously said that the Titans were ready to shake up the status quo and make some moves in free agency. Well, after nearly 24 hours, Smith looks like all smoke and no fire.
Tennessee’s big opening move was to sign Dexter McCluster, WR/KR from the Kansas City Chiefs, to a three-year, $12 million deal that only guarantees $4.5 million. While the numbers may seem a little lofty on the total potential of the deal, it actually is a pretty well structured contract. The Titans only owe McCluster just over $1 million per year in guarantees, and he is worth that.
His foremost responsibility will likely be to duplicate the role that Danny Woodhead had for the San Diego Chargers last year. As a Jack-of-all-trades, McCluster will see time at multiple positions and will be an excellent depth player if someone goes down in the middle of the season.
Although he was likely primarily brought in to create mismatches on offense, his value on special teams should be noted. According to Pro Football Focus, McCluster was the second highest rated punt returner in the NFL last year out of 66 possible players. His 705 return yards were second to none, and only he and Tavon Austin scored touchdowns on punt returns twice last year. Finally, his YPR was 12.2, leading all punt returners who fielded 35 or more punts.
McCluster wasn’t the only special teams player the Titans signed yesterday, however, as they did manage to retain Leon Washington on a one-year deal. Washington was a much-needed boost to a dismal kick return unit in 2013. Of kick returners who actually returned 15 or more kicks, Washington’s 30.1 YPR average was the fourth best only trailing Cordarrelle Patterson, Dwayne Harris and Quintin Demps.
While the Titans solidified their special teams, there were some very low-points to yesterday’s news. Alterraun Verner signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Karlos Dansby signed with the Cleveland Browns, DeMarcus Ware was released but the Titans have made no attempt to sign him and there appears to be little to no push to try to bring in an edge rusher to fit the new 3-4 hybrid defense.
If the Titans don’t make a push for Lamarr Woodley, Brandon Spikes, Jason Hatcher, Justin Tuck or Shaun Phillips soon, then they will have a lot of explaining to do in their post-free agency press conference.