Titans 2016 Offseason Preview

Current Estimated 2016 Cap Space: $40.4 million

Expected 2016 Cap Space: $68.2 million

Estimated Rookie Cap: $8.786 million

Roster Overview

Players Under Contract: 56
Pro Bowlers: 0
Unrestricted Free Agents: 12(2 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 1

Salary Cap Breakdown

Titans salary cap

Titans Spending

Titans Spending

Free Agents to Re-sign

With one of the worst rosters in the NFL last season it is hard to really make a compelling case that the Titans should bring anyone back. Zach Brown is a former second round pick who has some ability but lost his starting job this year. With a new staff in place a short term one or two year contract may be in the best interest of the team and could help his long term value…Byron Bell could have use as a low priced swing tackle to be used as a backup and in certain packages.

Free Agents to Let Walk

Nobody will be beating the door down for any of the free agents on the team. Coty Sensabaugh should not be back in any contributing role….Al Woods, Sammie Lee Hill, and Craig Stevens all may have a role on a team that needs more of a veteran presence, but this teams needs youth and fresh faces which makes them all expendable.

Contracts to Modify

The Titans could consider extending the contract of Kendall Wright. Wright is currently slated to earn over $7 million next season on his one year option. Wright had a strong 2013 but has not done as well the last two years with the declining QB play and his injuries. Wright could be in store for a much better 2016 year if the QB improves which could make it a good time to extend him. If the Titans plan on keeping Wright next season extending him before March would allow them to pretty much cover the entire guarantee on a new contract with the same $7 million salary… Jason McCourty has been overpriced since day 1 and releasing him creates $7 million in cap space, but the team is so thin in the secondary that they may be better off working on an extension at a reasonable cost.

Players to Consider Releasing

Surprisingly Michael Griffin made it through last season, but his Pro Bowl days are long gone. He has the 5th highest salary at the position next year and it is time to move on. They can save $6.5 million by cutting him….It’s possible that the team could keep one of their two veteran receivers, Harry Douglas and Dexter McCluster, but with the team needing to upgrade the position neither should have a role on a team like this next year. Douglas saves about $3 million in cap while cutting McCluster will save $2.65 million…Cutting Ropati Pitoitua will save $3 million.

Salary Cap Analytics by Bryce Johnston

While the Titans posted a poor record in 2015, the team maintains a very clean salary cap situation going forward.  They have a high degree of flexibility for 2016, as is evidenced by the 3rd largest amount of True Cap Space in the league.  Furthermore, the team has not mortgaged its future at all, as it currently sports a negative Commitment Index Score.  The Titans can preserve large chunks of True Cap Space by releasing players with low Expected Outcomes such as Michael Griffin and Jason McCourty, thereby allowing them to spend aggressively in free agency without increasing their Commitment Index Score by a significant amount.  The Titans can take advantage of the three remaining seasons of Marcus Mariota’s rookie contract by front-loading extensions for young players, a strategy that will likely cause a ripple effect of favorable True Cap Space and Commitment Index situations for a number of years.

Bryce Johnston, @NFL Cap Analytics

Expected Contract OutcomesExpected Contract Value 2.0 utilizes an algorithm based on a player’s contract characteristics, age, position and 2015 performance to forecast probabilities as to the outcomes of contract termination decisions.   The lower the Expected Outcome, the more likely the player’s contract will be terminated in 2016.  A pay cut is treated as a termination.  We have applied ECV 2.0 to all contracts scheduled to count $2 million or more against the 2016 salary cap with the exception of exercised 5th year rookie options.  Expected Savings is the calculated by multiplying the probability a player will be released by the cap savings realized by the team upon such release.

PlayerPositionExpected OutcomeExpected Savings
Marcus MariotaQB100.0%($4,292)
Taylor LewanOL99.1%($33,254)
Brett KernKP97.7%($6,750)
Ryan SuccopKP97.2%$45,733
Jurrell CaseyDE96.4%$63,536
Derrick MorganLB89.6%$187,775
Chance WarmackOL88.0%$166,968
Da’Norris SearcyDB87.0%$357,775
Brian OrakpoLB78.0%$990,900
Wesley WoodyardLB68.7%$859,375
Perrish CoxDB62.7%$1,552,916
Dexter McClusterREC40.6%$1,573,305
Delanie WalkerREC39.6%$2,641,625
Karl KlugDE37.8%$1,089,375
Harry DouglasREC25.6%$2,243,495
Michael GriffinDB23.1%$4,999,800
Jason McCourtyDB15.4%$5,924,100
Anthony FasanoREC11.6%$2,320,238
Ropati PitoituaDE6.9%$2,866,658
Expected Change in Cap Room+$27,839,278

True Cap SpaceRealizable Cap Space depicts the total amount of salary cap space potentially at the team’s disposal in 2016, and True Cap Space makes further adjustments to take into consideration amounts that are accounted for in practical terms.  Most True Cap Space will be used on players currently under contract as a result of the team choosing to not release them.

True Cap Space (2016)
Adjusted Salary Cap$170,830,676
Prorated Signing Bonus Amounts($31,299,170)
Realizable Cap Space$139,531,506
Fully Guaranteed Salary($5,364,436)
Minimum Salary Cap Holds($21,600,000)
True Cap Space$112,567,070
League Rank3rd

Commitment Index – Commitment Index identifies the degree to which a team has “mortgaged its future” by measuring its net future salary cap commitments  as a percentage of the average net future salary cap commitments of all teams.  A Commitment Index Score of 100% is average, and a negative Commitment Index Score indicates that the team has more current salary cap space than future salary cap commitments.

Commitment Index (2017+)
Prorated Signing Bonus Amounts$29,280,571
Fully Guaranteed Salary$8,359,313
Current Cap Space($38,216,155)
Net Commitment($576,271)
Commitment Index Score-3%
League Rank (1st = Most Committed)25th

Offseason Plan

Last year I started my overview of the Titans with the following statement:

“There is probably not a team in the NFL with a worse roster than the Titans.”

One year later and I think we need to start off the same way. There were some signs of hope with Marcus Mariota at times playing very well and Dorial Green-Beckham flashing towards the end of the season, but still the only certainty is that Jurrell Casey is one of the best and most underappreciated linemen in the NFL. The team overall has a roster filled with role players who are expected to play bigger roles than they would anywhere else.

It will be interesting to see what the franchise does now that they have a new front office. For the last few seasons they have been bargain bin shoppers, only getting somewhat involved for a projected top free agent if it came at a cheaper position. One would think that would change as the Titans need to find a way to upgrade the talent level which can be done best by signing some quality younger veterans to fill holes that they don’t think they can address in the draft.

Improving the offensive line should be the top priority for the team. They already have some potential building blocks in place and should be able to improve the rest in free agency. There should be a number of right tackles who are available and they likely can find either a guard or center as well.  Adding one or two veterans to the mix can really improve the whole line dramatically.

This is also a good year for help in the secondary. While the only bonafide star at corner is Josh Norman there is a pretty large group of players who would be an upgrade over what they currently have such as Janoris Jenkins or Casey Heyward. Safety will have some interesting prospects with Eric Berry and Tashaun Gipson potentially available. Some may consider an Eric Weddle or Sean Smith as a potential secondary target, but they should look for younger rather than older players at the position.

What type of defense they play will dictate their free agent targets. Both Damon Harrison and Jaye Howard would be excellent fits if they play a 34 defense to man the middle.  If they went for a run stuffer like Harrison targeting another defensive end that can rush the passer. If a Howard then they can go for a run defender at the other 34 spot. There are plenty of 34 ends that will be free agents. If they switch defenses making a run at situational player to pair with Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo might be a good option.

The last spot in free agency they should target is running back. While normally that’s a position to go after in the draft, I think given the team’s needs and excess cap space that spending on a running back is a reasonable for the Titans. Lamar Miller is probably the best target for the team though Doug Martin is a higher upside but higher risk player. If they are looking to go cheaper with upside Alfred Morris would be the player.

With one of the top two draft picks in almost every round the Titans should be able to target their other positions of need such as pass rusher, receiver, and linebacker. Given the state of the roster they have to find contributors and stay away from picks at the lesser positions like fullback and tight end. Because the play in the worst division in the NFL it won’t take much to compete but clearly it’s a critical offseason for the Titans one where they need both a good draft and free agent run to improve their fortunes.

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