There are still six games left in the 2019 regular season, but you can be assured that Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson is already pondering his off-season plans.
The Titans have plenty of decisions to make after the season. The biggest decision going into the season — whether or not to extend quarterback Marcus Mariota — has essentially already been made for Robinson. There’s almost no way Mariota will return to Nashville next season after losing his starting job to Ryan Tannehill.
Beyond the obvious (and correct) choice to let Mariota spread his wings and enter free agency, there are three other “no brainer” moves I think the Titans have to make during the off-season.
Release Dion Lewis
I was a big fan of the Titans’ decision to sign Dion Lewis to a four year contract in early 2018. I thought he’d be a good fit in Matt LaFleur’s offense and I also thought he’d be a reliable target for Marcus Mariota in the passing game.
Lewis had moderate success for Tennessee in 2018. He set a career high in receptions (59) and receiving yards (400), while also rushing for 517 yards on 155 carries (3.3 yards per carry, the lowest of his career).
In 2019, however, Lewis has been an afterthought in the Titans’ offense. Through 10 games, he has 77 rushing yards and 96 receiving yards. If this is how Lewis is going to be used moving forward, I don’t see any reason for the Titans to pay him for the next two years. Especially since Lewis will turn 30 next September.
If the Titan’s release Lewis after this season, it will save the team just over $9 million (he’s owed $10.6 million with a dead cap hit of $1.125 million). That extra cash will be important for the Titans moving forward.
Extend Derrick Henry
I’m typically not a big fan of extending or signing running backs. I’ve always thought teams can usually just find a guy.
But Derrick Henry isn’t “just a guy” (shoutout Justin Hunter). You can’t find a Derrick Henry in every draft. Sure, he has his deficiencies (he doesn’t contribute much as a pass catcher), but he’s a bruising running back that is capable of taking it to the house at any time.
And he’s a perfect fit in the Titans’ offense. Henry set a career high last season with 1,059 rushing yards. He’s on pace for over 1,300 rushing yards this season.
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) November 10, 2019
Plus he’s durable. Henry has only missed one game in his career. He’s built like a tank, so he’s the type of player who can handle a heavy workload.
The Titans have plenty of room to bring Henry back on a semi team friendly deal (especially if they release Lewis). A four year deal with the first couple of years guaranteed, maybe around $10 million a year, would be ideal for the Titans.
Re-sign Ryan Tannehill
I don’t necessarily believe Ryan Tannehill is the quarterback of the future for the Titans. I think that guy is still playing in college (whoever it might be).
But I do think Tannehill can buy the Titans some time so they don’t feel pressured to trade up in the draft to land a quarterback. Tannehill has showed this season that he’s capable of leading the Titans to some wins. Tennessee is still in the playoff hunt thanks to Tannehill.
If the Titans draft their future quarterback this off-season, then Tannehill could still be the guy in 2020. And maybe in 2021. There would be no reason to rush the development of a young quarterback with Tannehill on the roster (The Aaron Rodgers path basically).
I wouldn’t give Tannehill a massive deal. If he’s promised the starting job, which he pretty much would be, then I think it’s reasonable to expect that he’d choose to remain in Nashville at somewhat of a discount (depending on his market). Either way, the Titans can afford him (they have the 14th most cap space in the NFL). And let’s be honest — there are no sure things when it comes to young quarterbacks in the draft. Tannehill would be a fail-safe for the Titans.
The Titans have a solid core group of players in place. They don’t need to waste this window of opportunity by waiting on a rookie quarterback to develop. Tannehill is their best option if they want to compete next season.
Featured image via Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports