Tennessee Titans General Manager Jon Robinson has a clear objective in mind while overhauling the team’s defense — be better than last year.
The Titans defense has a lot of turnover from 2020. Some of Robinson’s latest signings are clear upgrades from last year — Bud Dupree replacing Jadeveon Clowney, Janoris Jenkins replacing Adoree Jackson and Denico Autry replacing DaQuan Jones.
However, Tennessee’s latest move is a bit of a head-scratcher. The Titans agreed to terms with cornerback Kevin Johnson on Thursday, and according to Titans beat writer Paul Kuharsky, the team reportedly envisions him as its new nickel cornerback, replacing Desmond King.
King has since signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Texans – a price Tennessee could have easily paid unless Robinson flat out didn’t want him back. At 26, King is younger, faster and has been a far more productive player since joining the league than Johnson has.
An All-Pro in 2018, King is a great tackler in the open field and on screen plays, he excelled in zone coverage and was effective on blitzes. He had the 15th-highest grade from Pro Football Focus (67.1) of all free agent corners when playing in the nickel since 2019.
In nine games with the Titans last year, King had 31 tackles, two tackles for loss, two passes defensed and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Johnson had 35 tackles, and three passes defensed in 13 games, including six starts.
Johnson has bounced around the last three years in stints with the Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns. A first-round pick of Houston’s in 2015, Johnson had a decent rookie with 54 tackles, nine passes defensed and one interception, but things went downhill from there.
He seemed to get progressively worse each year after, and Johnson hasn’t had an interception or a season with more than five passed defensed since his rookie year in 2015. He’s only started 15 games over the last five seasons.
Johnson, Jenkins and Kristian Fulton are the likely replacements for King, Jackson and Malcolm Butler, respectively, but don’t expect the Titans to be done revamping the cornerback position.
Kyle Fuller, Casey Hayward, Xavier Rhodes, Desmond Trufant, A.J Bouye and Brian Poole all remain free agents, and Jaycee Horn, Greg Newsome II, Asante Samuel Jr. and Tyson Campbell could all be available when the Titans pick at 22nd overall in the draft.
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