With NFL teams stuck in a state of limbo thanks to the lingering lockout, we are taking a tour around the league and looking at where teams stand as they await the opening of the 2011 league year. Today, we offer our take on where the Titans stand.
Top three story lines
1. After 30 years with the organization, Hall of Fame guard and longtime offensive line coach Mike Munchak is set to embark on his first head-coaching journey. The Titans' first big move under Munchak was selecting QB Jake Locker with the eighth overall pick in the draft. The club loves Locker's toughness and intangibles, but accuracy and decision-making concerns make it hard to imagine him being the starter from Day One. The Titans plan to add a veteran in free agency who can start right away; whether that guy is Kerry Collins, who knows the offense well, or perhaps Matt Hasselbeck, who has ties to GM Mike Reinfeldt and director of player personnel Ruston Webster from their days together in Seattle, remains to be seen.
2. The Titans' defense nosedived the past two seasons after back-to-back playoff appearances in 2007 and '08. New coordinator Jerry Gray has been given the task of righting the ship, and he has placed an emphasis on getting bigger, more rugged defenders in the front seven. The Titans spent five of their nine draft picks on linemen and linebackers, meaning a shakeup at those positions is on the horizon.
3. WR Kenny Britt has nearly half as many run-ins with the law (five) as he does TDs (12) in his first two seasons in Nashville. While he possesses the size and athleticism to become a perennial Pro Bowl wideout, his immaturity and poor decision making have made it difficult for the club to count on him. Munchak's first big test will be how he handles Britt, whose most recent arrest this offseason likely will be met with discipline from Roger Goodell.
2011 free agency — whenever that happens
Unsigned players: LB Colin Allred (3), DE Jason Babin (7), LB Patrick Bailey (3), DE Dave Ball (6), QB Kerry Collins (16), DE Marques Douglas (10), DE Jacob Ford (4), FB Ahmard Hall (5), OG Leroy Harris (4), CB Roderick Hood (8), WR Randy Moss (13), S Donnie Nickey (8), OL Michael Otto (3), TE Bo Scaife (6), LB Tim Shaw (3), QB Chris Simms (8), OLB David Thornton (9), MLB Stephen Tulloch (5), OLB Jamie Winborn (9). [Editor's note: The number after a players' name is his years of service in the league. If the NFL decides to go with free agency under the same rules as used in 2010, then a player would become a restricted free agent after three years and an unrestricted free agent after six years.]
Analysis: The Titans' No. 1 objective in free agency is acquiring a veteran signalcaller who can build a bridge to Jake Locker. Once that has been accomplished, the club will focus on re-signing their own guys. Before the lockout, the club tendered seven players, including Ford, Hall, Harris and Tulloch. The Titans hope that the 2010 free-agency rules remain in place, as all four guys are major contributors who could draw interest elsewhere if they are unrestricted. DE Jason Babin, who is coming off a career-high 12½ sacks in ‘10, likely will receive higher offers elsewhere as he does not fit Jerry Gray's mold of a stout run defender and is a Jim Washburn guy — Washburn left the Titans this offseason to coach the Eagles' defensive line. Moss, who had virtually no impact in eight games last season, and Scaife, who fell out of favor with the club, are not expected to return. The team could look to make a few additions on defense if it can do so for the right price, with defensive line, linebacker and safety all being areas where improvements can be made.
2011 rookie class
First-round QB Jake Locker (No. 8 overall) — Locker's dedication and leadership qualities make him the antithesis of Vince Young, who wore out his welcome with the club last season.
Second-round OLB Akeem Ayers (No. 39 overall) — The Titans have big plans for the playmaking Ayers, who can line up over the tight end and set the edge, rush the passer from a three-point stance and drop back in coverage.
Third-round CB Jurrell Casey (No. 77 overall) — At 6-0, 300 pounds, Casey can occupy multiple blockers, but also possesses the quickness to generate pressure in the backfield.
Fourth-round LB Colin McCarthy (No. 109 overall) — The Titans are looking to reshape the linebacking corps, and McCarthy, if he can stay on the field — he was a china doll at Miami — can push for playing time immediately.
Fourth-round RB Jamie Harper (No. 130 overall) — Harper has the size to be a change-of-pace back when Chris Johnson needs a blow. Harper could challenge backup Javon Ringer for carries.
Fifth-round DT Karl Klug (No. 142 overall) — Klug does not have great measurables, but his relentlessness led to a lot of production on a very talented defensive line at Iowa.
Sixth-round OT Byron Stingily (No. 175 overall) — Stingily is a developmental prospect who should benefit from learning under two Hall of Famers in Mike Munchak and new O-line coach Bruce Matthews.
Seventh-round DT Zach Clayton (No. 212 overall) — The overachieving Clayton was a pro-day riser who will have an opportunity to contribute on a new-look defensive front.
Seventh-round SS Tommie Campbell (No. 251 overall) — Campbell looks the part, possessing a nice combination of size and speed. Transferring three times in college raises questions, however.
Lockout fallout: How impacted will the Titans be by the work stoppage?
On scale from 1 to 10 (with 10 being the most significantly impacted), the Titans rate a 10. This is a club that could not be in worse position to endure a lockout. With a new head coach, two new coordinators and a new quarterback, the players desperately need all the time they can get to become acclimated to a new staff and two new systems. The front office is impacted because it needs free agency to begin so it can secure a veteran signalcaller. Mike Munchak, a rookie head coach, is missing out on valuable time to create the work environment he envisions for his players and new staff.