2018 Free Agency: Is This the Year For Big Spending?
2018 NFL Free Agency: Is This The Year For Big Spending?
A Guest Post by Chris Epps. If you are interested in writing for RPO, email firstname.lastname@example.org
First, I want to preface this by saying the previous regime of Mularkey, Robiskie and the beloved Dick Lebeau was not trustworthy with spending in free agency. However, the more likely scenario was waiting for the opportune time for a staff that the front office believes is capable of having the understanding and ability to assess, use AND develop player’s strengths. Most Titans fans, me included will be forever grateful for their accomplishments, however, they unquestionably left some to be desired.
Jon Robinson has been building this team with the mindset of eventually having to move on from the coaching staff that he inherited. He brought in personnel that was able to fill current needs adequately, but also versatile enough to fulfill needs for a new regime more reflective of his vision of not only being tough, dependable, reliable…but possibly most importantly VERSATILE instead of doubling down on Mularkey’s inflexible system. For example, players like Trawick - ST/S, Bates - ST/LB, Sly Williams - NT/DT, Decker - outside/slot and most notable Logan Ryan - outside/slot can not only their listed position but in sub packages play a slightly different role based on their attributes.
This year could be the year where customization will be more of a theme. Actually bringing in guys that are specifically tailored to the system we currently have in place. More mobile O lineman, speedier receivers for more of a spread west coast zone blocking type offense, more athletic linebackers that can move sideline to sideline instead of a run stuffing role like Avery Williams and Woodyard. Bottom line, it wouldn’t be shocking if we saw an uptick in spending now that Jon Robinson has his guy Mike Vrabel in place at the helm with a supporting staff that is committed to tailoring their “system” to player’s strengths.
In 2018, Tennessee currently ranks top 10 in available cap space (www.overthecap.com) and possibly more with a few notable players seemingly on the bubble like Demarco Murray - $6.5M savings. As you can see, there are quite a few players that could be looking for work next year. My list of targets that are in danger of cut with little penalty aside of Murray if it is deemed that there are better fits in the free agency market or in the draft include:
These cuts could net more than $10M additional cap space. Not listed is Karl Klug because I believe he fits what the mantra of the new regime of being versatile, tough and reliable, but could net an additional $2.5M, however, I feel Klug is a pretty decent bargain based on production. Players like Orakpo could be in line for an out of sequence contract extension with a contract restructure if he agrees to take less money as he is on the wrong side of his career and showing signs of decline. Jon Robinson, in my opinion, has proven to be a master of managing the books.
Looking Ahead To 2019
2019 looks to be even sweeter and makes even more sense to take deeper dive in free agency spending this year with close to $100M available not including the extensions of Lewan and Mariota. Rishard Matthews, Orakpo and Morgan will be coming off the books - $19M. Other players can be cut or restructured with little penalty include Logan Ryan $10M savings, Cyprien $6.2M savings and Sly Williams with $5.5M savings. The time is now to strike while the iron is hot and Robinson knows this which probably helped spur the firing and cleaning house of the 2017 coaching staff. Cash is king and available cap space when managed effectively is the hallmark of the highest functioning organizations in the NFL.
With a potential $60M available in cap space in 2018, I could see Tennessee bringing in 1 or 2 two big-time free agents commanding $10M-$$15M a year and a smattering of middle tier signings provided that those names are in the market even assuming Lewan commands $15M and Mariota $25M a year due to so many big contracts coming off the books in 2019. That could leave Tennessee in a situation in terms of cap even better next year with around $60M depending on what they do in this year’s offseason.
Positions of Need
Tennessee’s roster has been built in a balanced way where the floor at almost every position is relatively high or average at worst. The "best player available" strategy is the most-likely approach the Titans will take in this draft.
Most notable positions needing upgrade are running back, edge and inside linebacker. Secondary needs, but high on the list are interior offensive line, safety, corner and wide receiver. I believe that of all positions, the defensive line is probably the deepest, strongest and most crowded on the entire team. On a side note, a true nose tackle would be a great addition if we stay true to more of a 3 down lineman base. Depth is needed at all other positions just like most teams. This would set the Titans up to be in a position to rotate in young guys when ready to fit the model instead of having to delve heavily into free agency year after year like Jacksonville has done in the past. A perfect example of understanding this concept that comes to mind are the Pittsburgh Steelers and how they have been overloaded with high-end quality wide receiver depth year after year and closely following the next man up theme with not having to overpay in free agency.
Higher End Targets That Could Be Available
- Trumaine Johnson
Middle Tier Targets That Could Be Available
Potential Cap Casualties
These are not comprehensive lists, but more of an example of players that could end up in Tennessee to fill the roster for the next several years. Either way, I would not be shocked to see a great deal of turnover this offseason with a few bigger names being signed due to the fact of all the hard work of Jon Robinson cleaning up the cap situation and overhauling the roster since he’s been hired as the head honcho for the Titans. Jon Robinson’s main goal i to begin this new era of two-tone blue football off with a successful bang.
Thanks to Chris for an awesome post! Follow him on twitter!
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