When the Tennessee Titans signed linebacker Bud Dupree and defensive end Denico Autry at the start of free agency, it was presumed the organization had made what it deemed to be the necessary upgrades to bolster its pass rush.
While it’s possible Tennessee will still take an edge rusher at some point in the upcoming draft, cornerback, wide receiver and offensive lineman appear to have leapfrogged pass rusher on the franchise's list of top priorities.
But with several free agent pass rush options still available, could the Titans possibly sign another player to help get after the quarterback? Titans team reporter Jim Wyatt believes they could.
“I don’t think the Titans are done adding edge rushers,” Wyatt said in his recent mailbag. “As for DaQuan (Jones), the fact he’s still available has to be viewed as a positive in terms of the chances of him coming back.”
Although he works for the team, Wyatt has maintained he has no insider knowledge of any roster moves Tennessee makes and is simply making educated guesses. But as a team employee, Wyatt wouldn’t make baseless predictions about such things only to have egg on his face down the road.
So, if the Titans do, in fact, have their eye on another edge rusher, who would be the best fit on their new-look defense? Listed below are the four available players who make sense for Tennessee:
Although he’s 32, Kerrigan likely still has plenty left in the tank. Washington’s all-time sack leader, Kerrigan is a four-time Pro Bowler and averaged 10.5 sacks in his first eight seasons. In addition, he has totaled at least 5.5 sacks every season since joining the league in 2011.
Over the last five years, only six players — Aaron Donald, Chandler Jones, Cameron Jordan, Khalil Mack, T.J. Watt and Danielle Hunter — have more sacks than Kerrigan (48). And his 95.5 career sacks rank as fourth-most among active players.
There are some injury concerns after Kerrigan started 12 games in 2019 and only one contest last year. Prior to that, he didn’t miss a game from 2011-18. However, Kerrigan played on only 38 percent of Washington’s defensive snaps last season, making him a perfect complement to Dupree and Harold Landry, and serving as a rotational rusher to help keep teammates fresh.
On the surface, it may be difficult to get excited about Ingram given his 2020 season. The 32-year-old started and played in just seven games, registering zero sacks, five QB hits, 12 QB pressures, seven QB hurries and 10 total tackles.
But before his injury-riddled 2020 season, Ingram proved to be a reliable and disruptive player at both outside linebacker and defensive end. From 2015-19, Ingram averaged 8.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, 18.4 QB hits and two forced fumbles per season while starting every game he played in.
His versatility to play standing up and with his hand in the dirt could be invaluable for the Titans, who could create matchup problems along the line and on the edge that they simply couldn’t do with their personnel last year.
The Titans already stole one pass rusher from their AFC South rival, so why not make it two? Despite being 32, Houston has been fairly durable. He has missed just 26 games throughout his 10-year career, starting every game in which he has played in eight of the last nine years.
Houston has been one of the more productive pass rushers of the last decade, and his 97.5 career sacks rank as the second-most among active players, behind only J.J. Watt. He’s had double-digit QB hits in eight of his 10 seasons, and he’s totaled 20 or more QB pressures in every season minus 2016 when he played in just five games.
Pairing Houston with Autry on the outside and Jeffery Simmons up the middle, Tennessee could have one of the toughest defensive lines to penetrate. The Titans instantly become more intimidating to opposing quarterbacks with Houston, Autry, Dupree and Landry coming after them.
Clowney’s value definitely took a hit after his disappointing, zero-sack season last year with the Titans. Granted, he played in only eight games, but his production — 19 tackles, four tackles for loss, six QB hits, five QB hurries, 11 QB pressures — was far lower over that span than at any point during his career.
Clowney still has a chip on his shoulder, with many questioning if he truly belongs in the upper echelon of pass rushers in the league. At 28, Clowney is likely looking to cash in one more time before he hits the latter end of his career. However, coming off season-ending knee surgery, Clowney will likely have to sign another affordable, one-year “prove it” deal in 2021.
All of the reasons Clowney chose Tennessee last season — familiarity with head coach Mike Vrabel, need for speed from outside rushers, his skills against the run — still ring true this year. A Titans-Clowney reunion in 2021 isn’t farfetched.
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