Amani Hooker

Titans safety Amani Hooker is a potential free agent at the end of the 2022 season.

There are a couple of contract issues that the Tennessee Titans might opt to address sooner rather than later as training camp approaches in just over a month.

Sure, the big contract situation is with Jeffery Simmons, but the Titans can sit tight on that one if they so choose. The 2019 first-round pick is under contract for this year, and has his fifth-year option for 2023, even if General Manager Jon Robinson does nothing with the star defensive tackle's contract situation.

A couple of contracts that won't be in the range of Simmons' deal could come to fruition sooner. Safety Amani Hooker and inside linebacker David Long are both entering the final years of their respective rookie deals as part of Robinson's huge haul in the Class of 2019.

Hooker has risen from special teams ace and sub-package player in his first two seasons to being a full-time starter at strong safety in 2021. Hooker played in 12 games for the Titans and had one interception, four passes defensed and foced a fumble to go along with 62 tackles. Combine that with four picks and 51 total tackles he had as a backup in 2020, and it is easy to see why the Titans might not want to lose part of what arguably might be the NFL's best safety tandem with Hooker opposite all-Pro Kevin Byard.

It is probably not a complete coincidence that the Titans defense began to jell last season after Hooker returned in late October from missing five games with a groin injury.

Hooker is also plenty young for a fourth-year player, having just turned 24 earlier this month. That means he is just entering his prime as he readies for a second contract.

Some preliminary conversations about an extension for Hooker have taken place in recent weeks, but if anything materializes soon, it would likely take place between the start of training camp and the opening of the regular season. The Titans, as a rule, do very little negotiating during the season. Also, the closer a player gets to free agency, the more like he is to test the waters or cause the price tag to go up.

Long, 25, is in a similar situation. He came in as a sixth-round pick and cut his teeth on special teams. Long first got the Titans attention when filling in for an injured Jayon Brown in the playoffs. Long made a fourth-and-1 stop of Lamar Jackson that helped the Titans pull the upset win over the top-seeded Ravens in the playoffs in 2019.

Since that time, Long nosed his way ahead of both Brown and Rashaan Evans to be a full-time starter. He had 75 tackles and two interceptions last season, despite playing in just 10 games, missing seven due to a hamstring injury.

The one thing that may or may not work against Long in any contract talks is how much the Titans value the inside linebacker position. Other than Brown, whom they gave one extra year when they had little depth and he was injured heading into free agency, inside linebacker has been a position of turnover for the Titans. They made no overtures toward keeping Evans, a former first-round pick, after they claimed Zach Cunningham off waivers from the Texans.

Beyond Long and Cunningham, the Titans have only Monty Rice, who is somewhat proven, but Rice is coming off Achilles surgery and could be slowed early on.