The biggest storyline surrounding the Tennessee Titans in 2019 is the decision the franchise has to make about quarterback Marcus Mariota, who is scheduled to be a free agent after the season.
Mariota’s fate with the Titans completely depends on how the 2019 season plays out.
Tennessee basically has three options when it comes to Mariota: extend him, franchise tag him, or move on from him.
My feeling is that an extension will occur at some point. I don’t expect Mariota to turn into a MVP candidate, but I think some continuity with the offense, plus some added weapons, will help the former No. 2 overall pick achieve a solid season.
But feelings can be wrong. And no one has any idea how the 2019 season will actually go for Mariota.
In a worst case scenario, the Titans would move on from Mariota after deciding he’s not the guy to take Tennessee to the next level.
So then what? Where do the Titans go from there?
Well, unfortunately there aren’t a lot of clear answers.
Finding a quarterback via free agency isn’t much of an option these days. Any quarterback that shows even a hint of potential of being a franchise quarterback usually gets extended.
That means the free agent quarterback market is typically littered with journeyman quarterbacks, back ups and veterans that are either at the end of their careers or they’re teetering on the edge of being a starting quarterback in the NFL
In other words, not good options.
This upcoming offseason, the options for the Titans would be Drew Brees (who turns 41 in January), Dak Prescott (who will probably receive an extension from the Dallas Cowboys), Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, Jameis Winston and Case Keenum. And then a litany of No. 2 and No. 3 quarterbacks.
Among those quarterbacks, there really isn’t a viable option for the Titans.
Brees, Manning and Rivers are nearing the end of their careers. Brees and Rivers have enough equity in their respective franchises to go out on their own terms. No one knows how the Giants will handle the Manning situation, but he doesn’t have much left in the tank anyway.
Winston is facing the same questions as Mariota, and Keenum probably isn’t any better than current Titans backup quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
I think it’s safe to say that if Tennessee moves on from Mariota, their quarterback answer won’t come via free agency.
That leaves the NFL draft.
Ah, yes the draft. Where hope begins and dreams are made.
And where franchise oftentimes make terrible quarterback decisions.
You don’t need me to tell you that finding a franchise quarterback in the NFL draft is incredibly difficult — it’s on full display every spring.
There’s a reason that it’s so hard to find a stud quarterback in the draft — it’s because there’s very few of them walking the earth.
But if the Titans move on from Mariota, this is their only option.
So, if the Titans make the decision to draft a quarterback, it probably means they finished with a mediocre record of somewhere between 6-10 and 9-7.
That means they’d probably have a pick in the 10-20 range.
If the Titans pick in that range, they probably won’t have a shot at Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert.
They’d likely have to look at Jordan Love from Utah State (who has a Patrick Mahomes style about his game), Jake Fromm from Georgia, Jacob Eason from Washington or maybe KJ Costello from Stanford.
Those are actually some good options. I’m intrigued by Love and I really like the potential of Fromm.
But staking the the next four to five years on an unproven player would be a major gamble. It’s entirely possible that one of those players is the next MVP of the NFL. Or it’s possible that some (or all) of those players will be major busts and set the Titans back for years.
You can see why this such a big decision for the Titans. Maybe they’ll gain some clarity on the situation during the 2019 season.
If they don’t, it’s going to be a long offseason in Nashville as the team decides which direction they need to go.
Unfortunately for Tennessee, the answer, at the moment, isn’t abundantly clear.
I guess it’s safe to say I don’t envy general manager Jon Robinson in the slightest.
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