Three of the Tennessee Titans top defensive players last season were defensive backs. Of those three, two have been cut in the last two days in cost-saving moves for the 2021 season.
Just 24 hours after the team released cornerback Malcolm Butler to save $10.2 million, safety Kenny Vaccaro met the same fate in a move that saved the Titans $3.9 million in cap space.
After cutting Butler, Vaccaro and receiver Adam Humphries, and trading 2020 first-round pick Isaiah Wilson, the Titans have an estimated $17.58 million in salary cap space for 2021, according to Spotrac.
“We’ve got a little bit of work to do,” Titans GM Jon Robinson told reporters last month. “We’re in better shape than some teams are cap-wise and we’re not as good as others. But we’ll work through it and ... try to do what’s best for the team and continue to put a winning product on the field.”
Vaccaro had 83 tackles last season — fourth-best on the team — with five passes defensed, six tackles for loss and a fumble recovery in 13 games. It was just his second season without an interception. In three years in Tennessee, Vaccaro started 42 games with 14 passes defensed and two interceptions.
In eight seasons, the 30-year-old Vaccaro totaled 610 tackles, 44 passes defensed, 10 interceptions, 35 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.
With Vaccaro’s departure, 22-year-old Amani Hooker is expected to take over at strong safety. A fourth-round pick in 2019, Hooker recorded 51 tackles, eight passes defensed and tied for the team lead with four interceptions in 16 games, including three starts, last year.
It is presumed the Titans want Hooker to take a more prominent role on defense and his $1.034 million is definitely more attractive than Vaccaro’s $6.9 million cap hit would have been.
Should Robinson feel the need to save more money, he does have a few options. Guard Rodger Saffold has a $12.34 million cap hit and could be a candidate to restructure his contract.
Center Ben Jones, who has a $6 million cap hit, and tackle Dennis Kelley, who carries a $6.5 million cap hit, could also be options to either rework their deals or be released. Others that could be cut include cornerback Adoree Jackson and his $10.2 million price tag and punter Brett Kern and his $3.25 million cap hit.
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