A year ago, one of the Tennessee Titans’ biggest team needs heading into free agency was at cornerback.
The Titans ended up signing Malcolm Butler to a five year deal worth more than $60 million to fill that need.
Tennessee’s biggest perceived team need heading into free agency this year is at edge rusher, since the Titans will be without Derrick Morgan (free agency) and Brian Orakpo (retirement) next season.
As a result, NFL.com thinks Za’Darius Smith would be a good fit for the Titans.
Here’s what they say about Smith:
Smith generated plenty of rough-and-tumble tape for the Ravens last season. PFF credited him with 61 pressures, a breakout leap from his 40 in 2017. The Titans need help pressuring the quarterback — just like every team in the NFL — and would hope to grab Smith just as the 26-year-old hits his prime.
Smith is a former fourth round pick out of Kentucky. He totaled 5.5 sacks as a rookie in 2015, but only compiled 4.5 sacks from 2016-17.
The former Wildcat, however, broke out in 2018, accumulating 8.5 sacks and 45 total tackles. According to Pro Football Reference, Smith only started eight games for the Baltimore Ravens last season.
Tennessee, by the way, is quite familiar with Smith. In the Titans’ disastrous 21-0 loss to the Ravens in 2018, Smith was a disruptive force. He led the Ravens with five tackles and three sacks.
There’s also the Dean Pees connection. Pees was Smith’s defensive coordinator for three seasons in Baltimore.
Pees liked Smith so much at his pro-day at Kentucky that he reportedly told the dynamic pass rusher “we’re going to make you a Raven”. And then that’s exactly what happened.
This is a move that would make a lot of sense for the Titans schematically. And the familiarity between Pees and Smith, who didn’t start playing football until his senior year of high school, makes it a likely scenario as well.
The Titans will obviously explore a lot of free agent options in the coming weeks, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Za’Darius Smith is playing in Nashville next fall.
Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports