NFL free agency is off and running, and we're keeping track of every major signing, trade and release of the 2021 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and grades from our experts. The new league year began March 17, meaning free-agent signings could be made official after that. The first round of the 2021 NFL draft begins April 29 on ESPN.
The Titans have multiple roster needs that have to be addressed. Finding an impact pass-rusher tops the Titans' defensive needs list. Adding a game-changing defensive end/outside linebacker will likely take up most of their cap space that Tennessee has to work with.
The Titans could also use some help at the cornerback position, specifically at nickel. Wide receiver and tight end are the biggest needs for the Titans' offense. They'll need to find a kicker as well. Filling out the roster with limited cap space and 20 players that are set to become free agents won't be an easy task.
Bud Dupree, linebacker
The Titans have agreed to a deal with linebacker Bud Dupree, the former Steeler told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler on Monday. The deal will pay Dupree more than $16 million per year.
What it means: The Titans get much-needed pass-rush help by signing Dupree who had eight sacks in 11 games last season. Dupree had 11.5 sacks in 2019. The 6-foot-4, 269-pound outside linebacker complement's Harold Landry who is more of a speed rusher coming from the opposite side. Dupree's 24 tackles for loss over the last two seasons show he's capable of making plays behind the line of scrimmage which should help set up more third-and-long situations to allow the pass rush to go after the quarterback. The Titans allowed opposing offenses to convert on 51.8% of their third-down opportunities. That should change this season.
What's the risk: Dupree is coming off a torn ACL that occurred in Week 12 against the Baltimore Ravens. He told Fowler in early March he plans to be a full participant in an NFL training camp based on positive feedback from his doctors. The injury is a reason to be concerned, especially for a player that relies on his explosiveness to get a jump on the snap and rush the passer. The other thing to consider is whether or not Dupree will be successful without T.J. Watt on the opposite side. Dupree only posted 4.5 sacks in 2016 before Watt arrived.
Jayon Brown, linebacker
Brown agreed to a one-year, $5.25 million deal.
What it means: Brown has been one of the Titans' most consistent defensive players since becoming a full-time starter three years ago. Given how many starters the Titans lost from their defense last year, having Brown return offers some continuity. His impact comes in coverage against running backs and tight ends along with support against the run. The Titans can also use him more in pressuring the quarterback. Brown had six sacks in 2018. He'll resume his role as the defensive playcaller the Titans, a role he had before injuring his elbow in Week 12 last season.
What's the risk: Signing Brown to a one-year deal gives the Titans a chance to have him back for 2021 but it could backfire if the fifth-year linebacker has a tremendous season and tests the market again. Brown is coming off a fractured and dislocated elbow that cost him the last six games of the season but says he will be ready to go for training camp.
Denico Autry, defensive lineman
Autry agreed to a three-year deal with the Titans.
What it means: The Titans needed to add to their pass rush after struggling to sack the quarterback last season (19 sacks, ranked 30th). Titans GM Jon Robinson found a disruptive interior defender in Autry, who had 7.5 sacks last season with the Colts as a complement to DeForrest Buckner (9.5 sacks). Tennessee hopes to create a similarly disruptive tandem with Autry and third-year defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons. Autry created an additional five sacks last season and was double-teamed on 57.8% of his interior pass rushes. Now that the Titans have the interior rush solidified, they can turn their attention to an impact defender who can rush the passer off the edge.
What's the risk: There really aren't any risks. At 30 years old, Autry had his second-best season last year with the Colts and that was next to Buckner. The Titans are banking on Autry's ability to be successful without Buckner as his running mate. It's not out of the question as Autry led the Colts with nine sacks in 2018. He finished with 3.5 sacks the year before Buckner arrived in Indianapolis. Autry will be 33 years old by the time his contract with the Titans expires.
Josh Reynolds, wide receiver
Reynolds reportedly agreed to a one-year contract.
What it means: Adding Reynolds gives the Titans a veteran wideout who should be their starting "X" receiver opposite A.J. Brown. Reynolds will get a prime opportunity to feast on one-on-one coverage since defenses will focus most of the attention on Brown. Reynolds comes from a similar offense after spending four seasons with the Los Angeles Rams. That bodes well for Reynolds and the Titans, especially if they are not able to spend extensive time on the field during OTAs and minicamp. At 6-foot-3 and 196 pounds, Reynolds has a large catch radius and plays above the rim. Although he isn't a speedy receiver, his deep pass catching ability will help stretch the field and open things up for Brown to work underneath. This is a solid value signing for the Titans.
What's the risk: The only risk would be associated with Reynolds' future with the Titans. Reynolds signed a one-year deal and is entering a situation that should allow him to thrive as a pass-catcher. A solid season from Reynolds could lead to a significant boost next season if he is able to hit the free-agent market once again. If Reynolds prices himself out of Tennessee and the Titans select a receiver in the 2021 draft who doesn't develop, they may be back in the market for a receiver again next year.
Anthony Firkser, tight end
Firkser agreed to a one-year deal.
What it means: The tight end room suffered a big loss when Jonnu Smith moved on to the New England Patriots. But in Firkser, the Titans retain one quarterback of quarterback Ryan Tannehill's favorite pass-catchers. Firkser was targeted 53 times and caught 39 passes last season. Bringing Firkser back should also help ease the loss of slot receiver Adam Humphries. Firkser is a crafty route runner who gets open despite not having elite speed or quickness. The Titans won't use Firkser extensively as an in-line tight end. He will mostly line up as a flex tight end and be an integral part of their third-down offense.
What's the risk: A low-cost deal like this has no risks. The Titans know what they have in Firkser.
Kendall Lamm, offensive tackle
Lamm agreed to terms on a two-year deal.
What it means: Lamm gives the Titans an option to compete for a starting spot at right tackle now that Dennis Kelly has been released. At the very worst, he's a capable backup that's ready to step in should one of the starters go down. Lamm comes to the Titans from the Browns who employ a similar zone-blocking scheme. Just for good measure, Lamm caught a 1-yard pass for a touchdown for the Browns in their Week 13 win over the Titans last season. Under Mike Vrabel, the Titans have used numerous tackle-eligible plays that have resulted in offensive linemen catching touchdowns.
What's the risk: There really aren't any risks to this deal. At 28 years old, Lamm is a veteran tackle that can fill in if called upon. His $8.5 million salary over two years is a bargain for a reserve offensive lineman.
Janoris Jenkins, cornerback
Terms of Jenkins' deal were not disclosed.
What it means: Jenkins brings starting experience to a team that is desperately in need of veteran help after releasing Malcolm Butler and Adoree' Jackson. Since 2015, Jenkins has had three or more interceptions four times and has 26 interceptions over his nine-year career. Jenkins' man coverage ability is a good fit for Tennessee. The Saints called on Jenkins to line up against opposing teams' top wide receiver frequently last season. The Titans used man defense on 48% of their defensive snaps last season, allowing 28 touchdown passes -- second-most in the NFL.
What's the risk: At 32 years old, Jenkins is growing long in the tooth -- especially for a cornerback. The Titans are very thin at the position so they'll rely on Jenkins heavily to anchor their group. Jenkins played 13 games last season. One of the games he missed was due to a knee injury in November.
Jenkins does have a tendency to get a little grabby in coverage. Last season Jenkins was flagged for defensive pass interference six times -- the second-most in the NFL after Marlon Humphrey (7).
Since his 2012 rookie season, he's been flagged for pass interference 25 times. That's tied for the third-most in the NFL in that span (trailing only Buster Skrine's 30 and Stephon Gilmore's 26).
Geoff Swaim, tight end
Swaim agreed to a one-year deal.
What it means: The tight end group was decimated after the Titans lost Jonnu Smith to free agency. Re-signing Swaim ensures the Titans have an inline tight end option primarily as a run-blocker. At 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, Swaim has nice size and can also be used in the backfield as an H-back.
What's the risk: This signing doesn't have any risks. It's a low-cost depth move. The Titans know what they are getting in Swaim after having him on the roster since training camp last year.
Morgan Cox, long-snapper
Cox agreed to a one-year deal.
What it means: Cox is a 12th-year veteran who has been to four Pro Bowls. His experience with one of the best special teams units in Baltimore should carry over to the Titans with Brett Kern and whoever ends up being the kicker. The move shows a dedication to securing the kicking game.
What's the risk: There aren't too many risks that can be associated with this move. Cox is 34 years old, but he has one job -- which is to long snap. The possibility of not having OTAs and minicamp due to the pandemic could make establishing a routine and precise timing with Kern and the new kicker more difficult. But that shouldn't be an issue by the time training camp is over.
Kevin Johnson, cornerback
Johnson agreed to a one-year deal.
What it means: Johnson is reunited with Mike Vrabel who served as the Houston Texans' defensive coordinator in 2017. The Titans used man defense on 48% of their snaps last season so Johnson's man coverage ability should match what Tennessee does going forward. Johnson is more of a depth signing. But he is a willing tackler, plays with plenty of aggression and offers length on the outside in addition to the ability to line up over the slot.
What's the risk: The risks this late into free agency aren't great. Johnson's deal is likely a low-cost one and gives the Titans a veteran player who will push for time in subpackages.
Ty Sambrailo, offensive tackle
Terms of Sambrailo's deal were not disclosed.
What it means: Sambrailo filled in for Taylor Lewan last year after Lewan went down five games into the season. The Titans released starting right tackle Dennis Kelly so there will be an opportunity for Sambrailo to battle with fellow free-agent signing Kendall Lamm for a starting spot. Sambrailo will at worst be a swing tackle who can step in and provide starts at the right or left side.
What's the risk: Sambrailo suffered a torn ACL in Week 12 last season. An injury that severe and late in the season could limit his effectiveness early in the offseason which could impede his quest for the starting right tackle spot.
Ola Adeniyi, linebacker
Terms of Adeniyi's deal were not disclosed.
What it means: Adeniyi is a special-teams ace that will help strengthen the coverage units for the Titans. He was a standout player for the Steelers and finished fourth on the team with eight special-teams tackles. The Titans won't get much from Adeniyi in a reserve role behind starters Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans. But he will serve as a depth player along with David Long Jr. There's a certain degree of toughness the Titans are looking to bring with their free-agent signings. Adeniyi fits that mold.
What's the risk: Like many of the moves the Titans have made, there really isn't much of a risk. It's a low-cost deal that brings them a player who fits the mold they want to have in all three phases of the game.
Khari Blasingame, fullback
The Titans signed Blasingame to a one-year deal.
What it means: The group that led the way for Derrick Henry's 2,025 rushing yards returned another player when the Titans brought Blasingame back. Keeping him allows Henry to run behind his fullback for another season. The Titans want to continue to rely heavily on the rushing attack even though they lost offensive coordinator Arthur Smith to the Falcons. But Blasingame's effectiveness goes beyond just blocking. He is a capable pass-catcher out of the backfield as well.
What's the risk: There aren't any risks associated with bringing a young, healthy player back -- especially on a low-cost deal. The Titans know what they have in Blasingame and believe he will continue to be a part of their thriving offense.