With Jonnu Smith bolting to the New England Patriots on Monday, the Tennessee Titans have a void to fill at tight end for the second time in as many seasons.
Only this time, the presumed heir apparent doesn’t appear to be on Tennessee’s roster.
The Titans on Wednesday confirmed they had signed both Anthony Firkser and Geoff Swaim to one-year deals, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see MyCole Pruitt be offered a similar one-year contract sometime down the road.
But it’s likely that none of those three will be the Titans’ 16-game starter heading into 2021. With 39 receptions and 386 yards, Firkser’s numbers weren’t too far from Smith’s last season, but the 26-year-old’s deficiencies as a pass blocker will likely limit his number of snaps.
Swaim, on the other hand, stated he likes to pass block, which will likely help him get on the field a little more this year.
With Smith and Hunter Henry both landing with the Patriots, and Gerald Everett heading to the Seahawks, the free agent group of tight ends — which wasn’t all that impressive to begin with — has slim pickings if Tennessee is looking for an upgrade from Firkser.
Jared Cook and Kyle Rudolph are the best of a less-than-inspiring group of free agents that are left, and at this point, the Titans would be better off trying to fill Smith’s void through the draft.
Florida’s Kyle Pitts is very much out of the equation, but Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth, Miami’s Brevin Jordan or Notre Dame’s Tommy Tremble could be solid, late-round consolation prizes.
Freiermuth would be Tennessee’s best option if it’s looking to replace Smith’s red-zone production. In fact, Freiermuth didn’t drop a single pass in the red zone in his college career.
Standing 6-foot-5, Freiermuth’s size makes him the perfect weapon for Ryan Tannehill in potential short-yardage and goal-line situations. Two seasons ago, Freiermuth had eight receptions for 96 yards and five scores from inside the 20. In 30 career games, he had 92 receptions for 1,185 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Jordan has a lot of similar attributes to Smith and can do many of the things he did for the Titans last year -- line up out wide, in the slot or in the backfield. At 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, Jordan is built similarly to Smith and he possesses similar versatility and yards-after-catch ability. He might almost make too much sense for Tennessee around the third round.
Depending on who you ask, Tremble could go as high as the late first or early second round, or somewhere in the third or fourth rounds. Either way, the Titans should be giving him a long look.
In addition to his athleticism, Tremble excels in pure pass catching ability and in pass protection. He is good at creating separation, has strong hands, can go up and get the ball and isn’t afraid to battle linebackers or defensive backs.
Others to consider in Rounds 4-7 include Boston College’s Hunter Long, Bowling Green’s Quintin Morris and Michigan’s Nick Eubanks.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_