The Tennessee Titans' 2021 season was full of highs, but may be remembered for the low note it ended on. Despite playing with a record-setting amount of different players and having to weather half of the regular season without star running back Derrick Henry, Mike Vrabel found a way to guide this Titans team to the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Yet, for the second year in a row, they were upset in their first playoff game on their home field.
It's especially brutal considering the fact that the Titans' defense sacked Joe Burrow a record-tying nine times, but still lost to the Cincinnati Bengals. In years past, it looked like the defense was holding Tennessee back. This time, it was the offense. The Titans aren't a team that needs a full-scale rebuild, but there are some things Tennessee needs to address. Important free agent decisions loom with players like Harold Landry, Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans, but additions need to be made as well. Below, we will break down three items that should be on the Titans' offseason to-do list.
1. Shore up the secondary
The Titans finished the regular season with the eighth-worst pass defense in the NFL, and that says something considering their formidable defensive front. Kristian Fulton looks like a legitimate starter and the veteran Janoris Jenkins had moments both good and bad, but this unit as a whole could look very different in 2022. Depth guys like Greg Mabin and Buster Skrine are looking for new contracts, and adding another legitimate starter via the draft or free agency would be ideal.
Some believe Caleb Farley will return next year and immediately be a legitimate starter, but to me, that first-round pick is a gamble until proven otherwise. The Virginia Tech product fell in the draft due to injury concerns. He missed the majority of the offseason/preseason while recovering from back surgery, and then tore his ACL after playing in just three games.
Farley rebounding to become the first-round star many envisioned he would be is certainly preferred, but far from a given. The Titans could have one of the best defenses in the league if they shore up the secondary, and that's a task the Titans should have in mind this offseason.
2. Add a legitimate wide receiver
Julio Jones was a splashy addition, but he didn't look like the same dominant specimen he was with the Atlanta Falcons. In 10 regular-season games played, he caught 31 passes for 434 yards and one touchdown. Jones is under contract until 2024, but who knows what happens this offseason. The Titans tried to make a free agent addition in Josh Reynolds last year, but that didn't work out for whatever reason. When he was released midseason, he caught three passes for 70 yards and a touchdown in his first start with the Detroit Lions.
The Titans can upgrade from Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and they should. A 33-year-old Jones and A.J. Brown won't cut it. Tennessee shouldn't have the ninth-worst pass offense in the league even with their philosophy to rely on the run. This could most likely be done in the draft.
If the Titans want to get the most out of Ryan Tannehill, he needs another sure-handed weapon that can add something to the offense. Speaking of the quarterback position, that brings me to my third and final point.
3. Add a quarterback
We have to talk about the quarterback position after the Titans' most recent exit from the playoffs. Tannehill is 2-3 in the postseason for Tennessee, and both wins have come when he has completed eight or fewer passes. We all understand the run game has carried the Titans, but Tannehill may not allow this team to reach their ceiling. Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports recently examined the Tannehill situation from a contract perspective and here are some highlights: The Titans still owe Tannehill $29 million in guaranteed money, and can't release him without losing almost $20 million off the bat. A trade would save the Titans an instant $10.2 million -- not to mention $17.8 million in 2023.
Again, the Titans aren't facing a rebuild, so they won't make a drastic decision. Is a trade likely? Russell Wilson is reportedly looking for a way out of Seattle, but it's unknown how much he will cost and if he will waive his no-trade clause for the Titans. In all likelihood, Tannehill is the Titans quarterback in 2022, but the front office could be talking pay cut with him and adding to the position. In fact, I think that's the smart decision.
I say the Titans need to bring in a quarterback to at least put pressure on Tannehill. A rookie with potential is preferable, which means the Titans should spend one of their first draft picks on a signal-caller. Tennessee shouldn't pull a 49ers and throw all their eggs in one basket with a trade up, but the quarterback position has to be one they are considering in draft preparation.
The quarterback is the most important position in football and half the league each year is scrambling trying to figure out what to do there. Tannehill is better than half the league, but I don't know if he's the guy that's going to get the most out of this team. He turns 34 this year, and I'm bringing in someone to challenge him.