The best thing the Tennessee Titans did last season was taking the interim tag off Mike Mularkey and give him the reins on a full-time basis. As a Jaguars’ fan, that’s hard for me to say. While Mularkey hasn’t fared well in past gigs with Jacksonville and Buffalo or as offensive coordinator in Atlanta, coaching the Titans appears to be the right fit. His mentoring, along with shrewd management deals have placed this franchise on the cusp of the playoffs. Had it not been for a late-season broken leg by Marcus Mariota, Tennessee by all accounts would have won the AFC South and made the postseason.
This is a team to watch in 2017. Trades last season with Los Angeles brought the team the fifth pick in April’s NFL Draft. For a team moving forward, there are still needs to be fulfilled, mainly in the secondary and at wide receiver. Tennessee could also use another pass rusher (so could everyone else) and depth on defense.
The Titans finished third in the NFL in rushing and second in run defense, a sure sign if finding a player or two in free agency and then choosing the best players available in the Draft could mean a deep run in December and January. Of course, everything hinges on the recovery of Mariota, but if he is on the mend and back to full strength, everyone in the AFC, not just the South division, should be placed on notice.
Here is a look at five free agents the Titans should target once they are able to sign players from other franchises.
Eric Berry, Safety – Berry is a former All-American from the University of Tennessee and would be an instant upgrade in the secondary. Atlanta is rumored to be in the market to bring the Georgia native home, but the Titans could make a push to land him. Berry, who has been one of the best at his position since his rookie season in 2010, said he does not want to play for the franchise tag for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Johnathan Cyprien, Safety – If the Jacksonville Jaguars decide to let the safety test free agency, more teams than most think will be after him for his size and ability to hit with authority. Cyprien finally puts a season together that turned heads in Jacksonville. The Titans know a thing or two about him having played against him two a year since 2013. If the Jaguars do release him, the Titans should make him one of their top priorities in free agency.
Pierre Garcon, Wide Receiver – The Tennessee Titans need another dependable wideout in the offensive plan. This team is still in need of a true No. 1 playmaker. Garcon would fill that role. After playing in both Indianapolis and Washington where he had to share the ball and the spotlight, he could be the featured pass catcher. He and Rishard Matthews would make a scary fast combination.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver – Another University of Tennessee alum that could return to the state to play in the NFL. The Minnesota Vikings may not re-sign the Pro Bowl return specialist, which could play right into the Titans’ hands. Patterson has been more successful on special teams than in pass routes. Having Mariota to throw to him might make a difference. Patterson was set to make $1.8 million but the Vikings may move on and find someone else to fill his role.
Nick Perry, Defensive End – This would be a solid choice given everyone will make a run at Jason Pierre-Paul and Melvin Ingram. Perry was the Packers’ best pass rusher last season with Julius Peppers aging and Clay Matthews injured, He more than likely will get a deal to stay in Green Bay, but if he doesn’t, then the Tennessee Titans should pounce. He is only 27 years old and could be primed for a true breakout season.