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The goal of a Super Bowl win was not reached by the Tennessee Titans this past season. In any offseason where the goal was not reached, there comes a point of reflection. Then, after that, there comes a point of recognizing what needs to change and what needs to stay to continue to reach towards the goal of bringing a Super Bowl title to the Music City.
The Titans are at that point after the season is over where choices have to be made and they have to decide whether to keep some free agents on their team or let them go.
Five free agents in particular stand out as important for the Titans this offseason: cornerback Desmond King, inside linebacker Jayon Brown, tight end Jonnu Smith, wide receiver Corey Davis and outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney.
With these five key free agents, where do they stand in order of importance to bring back? No one knows what the Titans will do this offseason in terms of their own free agents, but in order of most important to least important, here is who should be prioritized:
1 – Jonnu Smith
Although offensive coordinator Arthur Smith has moved on, the tight end position will still be huge in the Titans’ offense. Smith’s receiving numbers may not be huge (41 receptions, 468 yards) but he was one of Tennessee’s best targets targets and his eight touchdowns ranked fourth among NFL tight ends.
Also, Smith is one of the only tight ends that can be an in-line blocker, line up as an H-back, carry the football like a running back and run solid routes as well. His speed at the position is something teams have to account for and is one weapon the Titans need to hang on to.
2 – Jayon Brown
Some would say Corey Davis is needed more but Brown’s absence was evident when he was lost for the season after an elbow injury. His replacement, David Long Jr., was solid in the run game and even did some things better than Brown. Where Long Jr. was not better though was the passing game, as teams routinely took advantage of him.
In today’s NFL, you need a linebacker that can be versatile enough to cover the pass game and help you in the run. Brown is exactly that for the Titans and he is a difference-maker on a defense that struggled to make plays. Also, Brown was good enough to stick with wide receivers at times as well as tight ends. That type of linebacker is rare.
3 – Corey Davis
The guy opposite A.J. Brown had his best season as a Titan last season and came up 16 yards short of his first 1,000 yard season. Still, he will be sought after by many teams looking for a secondary receiver. Davis did have some times where he dropped passes and left some things to be desired, but he also was dependable for receptions for first downs, ranking tops on the team in that arena.
The dependability on receptions for first downs and his chemistry with starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill will be hard to replace. Also, his ability to block as a wide receiver is underrated. He is an important cog to the Titans’ offense.
4 – Jadeveon Clowney
While this may not be the popular choice, Clowney did have some impact on the games he did play. The Titans were awful getting to the quarterback last season, ranking at the bottom of the league. However, Clowney was always in the backfield causing some quick decisions from opposing team’s quarterbacks. Although his numbers did not reflect it, he had an impact on the Titans’ defense.
Another year here could help show why he was so sought after in free agency last offseason and also give him a chance to grow and learn within this defense. A concern here, however, is his health. Clowney has been known to not be healthy and stay healthy for a whole season, so there may be some hesitation depending on how much money he commands.
5 – Desmond King
The Titans traded for the veteran defensive back during the season, hoping for a bolstering of their secondary. He made a difference with his blitzes and his coverage at times, but in learning on the fly, it seemed like he never really made it to being as good as he could possibly be in the Titans’ scheme.
There are indications that King wants to stay in Nashville, but the Titans also have to think on the type of money he may command along with the importance level he holds. Tennessee has drafted and brought in a few young corners and with hopefully an upgraded pass rush, they should be able to get away with the younger guys. King is talented and there is no doubt about it, but his level of importance with what he brought may not have him at the top of the list to bring back.
The Titans have some decisions to make and these are only five of them. It will be interesting to see who stays and who goes.