NASHVILLE — NFL free agency always feels like an arms race when it comes to veteran edge rushers. For the second offseason in a row, the Tennessee Titans are in on the bidding.

GM Jon Robinson knows he needs better from a defense that finished 2020 at 31st in pressure rate.

Enter Bud Dupree and Denico Autry.

Tennessee’s two front line additions should help exponentially in ways Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley never did. The Titans lit $21.75 million on fire a year ago on a couple of shaky short-term investments. In 2021, Robinson committed to proven commodities that can immediately lift what surrounds them.

Even with Dupree and Autry, one maxim holds firm: you can never have too much pass rush.

Titans available options

Adding Dupree (5 yrs, $82.5 M) and Autry (3 yrs, $21.5 M) took some financial gymnastics.

Their 2021 hits against Tennessee’s salary cap, however, are cost effective in the short term ($5.12 M, $3.53 M). While there are still no reported contract details on three other Titans additions (corners Janoris Jenkins, Kevin Johnson or receiver Josh Reynolds), Robinson has fiscal tools at his disposal to free up cap space as he sees fit. 2020’s defense failed as much due to lack of depth as it did from Clowney’s injuries or Beasley’s disinterest.

A cost-effective Clowney reunion should be considered, provided the player is healthy. If not, veterans Ryan Kerrigan or Justin Houston simply make too much sense in Tennessee.

Free Agency provides the best fit

Kerrigan (32) and Houston (31) are not players at the peak of their powers.

Meaningful pass rush reps are something the Titans desperately lacked after Clowney’s knees failed him last season. Houston was the more productive of the two in 2020, contributing three quarterback knockdowns, eight sacks, 12 hurries and 25 pressures. In his 10th season, Houston started all 16 games for a Colts defense that finished seventh in adjusted defensive DVOA.

Kerrigan was decidedly more of a role player in Washington, playing in all 16 contests but starting only one. The ability to be a situational rusher remains, though. Leadership added to a Titans unit that seemed somewhat directionless would be hugely beneficial.

Jan 3, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) runs with the ball past Washington Football Team defensive end Ryan Kerrigan (91) during the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Clowney, of course, would be the best available option out there if his knee is right.

The former first overall pick is expected to be medically cleared this April, according Ian Rapoport. Surprising to no one: his signing with another team will likely be delayed.

Whatever Tennessee opts to do, they have been active in the NFL’s arms race. How much more they are able to add to their arsenal for 2021 remains to be seen.

Featured Image: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports.


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