With the moves this past week that sent Malcolm Butler and Kenny Vaccaro into free agency and sent first-round bust Isaiah Wilson to the Miami Dolphins for pocket change, the Tennessee Titans now have their salary cap house in order.
Yes, there could still be a restructured contract or two to free up some money. And there is the possibility of an additional release, but the pendulum now swings toward free agency and how to bolster a roster that needs help in more areas than meets the eye in order to keep the window of opportunity open, but to keep up with fellow AFC contenders like Kansas City, Buffalo, Indianapolis and Cleveland.
With some of the moves – like the release of Butler and Vaccaro – the Titans have replacements already on the roster that they hope will absorb those losses. Rising second-year pro Kristian Fulton now gets a golden opportunity to start at cornerback, and Amani Hooker, whose role slowly and steadily grew last season, will take over for Vaccaro.
Nickelback Desmond King is also a free agent, leaving the Titans potentially having to address the slot siuation.
And that is to say nothing of the pass rush position where the Jadeveon Clowney/Vic Beasley experiment was a huge disappointment in 2020, leaving Jon Robinson to address the outside linebacker spot once again this offseason.
On the defensive line, DaQuan Jones, one of the longest tenured Titans, is a free agent on a unit that needs playmakers to pair with Jeffery Simmons.
Even on offense, there are key positions where the picture is not so clear. The Titans are surely depleted right now at tight end and wide receiver in an offense that has been prolific the past two seasons and does not need to sustain any major dropoffs heading into 2021.
Adam Humphries was a cap casualty a couple of weeks ago, and Corey Davis is poised to test the market beginning Wednesday, barring an 11th-hour deal. The Titans apparently are moving on from Kalif Raymond as well, who was reportedly not given a tender offer to return.
At tight end, much of the talk is about the impending free agency of Jonnu Smith, and the Titans' quest to try and retain him. But blocking tight ends MyCole Pruitt and Geoff Swaim are free agents too, and Anthony Firkser is a restricted free agent. Firkser, a valuable role player with 39 catches a year ago, should either get a tender or a contract extension to keep him in the fold.
Assuming Firkser is kept that way, that leaves only him and A.J. Brown as reliable weapons in the passing game, heading into free agency, unless a deal can be brokered with Smith or Davis.
The good news is that Brown, Derrick Henry, Ryan Tannehill and the entire offensive line are all back. So the core remains intact. Still, judging which free agents to keep and which to let walk and how to replacement via free agency or the draft will play a large role in just where the Titans are heading into 2021.
For all the areas that need to be upgraded, the key for Robinson and his staff is can they perform the upgrades in weak areas without compromising their strong points at other positions. And do so with limited cap space that is currently around $17 million.