By Zach Bingham
Free Agency is right around the corner, March 9th at 4:00 p.m. EST to be exact, and I believe the Tennessee Titans will be in play from the start. Their key team needs this offseason is defensive secondary and wide receiver.
But one position group that also needs to be addressed is inside linebacker.
Avery Williamson is heading into a contract year, only making $690,000 in 2017. Williamson has earned every penny of his rookie deal, and I expect Titans GM Jon Robinson to resign the 5th round pick, who has overachieved since he strapped on the the two-tone blue.
It’s the other linebacker that needs to be upgraded. Wesley Woodyard is going into his 10th season, and the Titans owe him close to $5 million dollars if he’s on the 2017 opening day roster. Woodyard has done exactly what he was signed to do. He’s a veteran leader who consistently makes tackles and has been healthy in every game the last three seasons. But finding a replacement needs to begin right now.
Dont’a Hightower is going to cost a pretty penny, like $10 million dollars per year.
Here’s why he fits what the Titans needs…
He’s a Patriot
Or should I say was… Hightower is going to hit the open market. It’s almost a guarantee.
“I had enough cold, snow, rain, sleet during the season,” Hightower said, per ESPN’s Mike Reiss on why he didn’t attend the Super Bowl Parade.
Robinson has an immediate tie to players who have gone through the New England system. Not only did Hightower go through it, he thrived in it. In his five seasons, he had no less than 60 tackles per year and lead the team in 2013.
Only 26 years old, Hightower, along with Williamson, can be the center piece of your defense. The front line of Morgan, Casey & Orakpo can get the push needed to allow core inside linebackers to make plays. Dick Lebeau loves to use ‘exotic’ schemes to rush and attack the quarterback.
Watch what Hightower has the ability to do.
Knifing through the line, like it’s butter, to make a play.
He’s got speed
At inside linebacker, you have to both be able to defend the run and the pass. Hightower has the lateral speed to chase down runners. The Titans had the 2nd best run defense last season and a lot of that was attributed to second level tackling. Hightower only improves that facet of the D.
Just like Jon Robison, Dont’a Hightower can come back and work in his home state. A Tennessee native, Hightower attended Marshall County High School in Lewisburg, TN before he played for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. A homecoming of sorts would be the perfect fit to a guy who is tired of the cold weather of Boston.
It may be a long shot because Robinson has to make it work financially but Hightower could be a staple for years to come in the middle of the Tennessee defense.