Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson went into full win-now mode over the weekend, acquiring seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones in a blockbuster trade with the Atlanta Falcons.
It’s now seemingly clear that the Titans have their eyes set on the two-time defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs in that conference.
Jones will team up with fellow wide receiver A.J. Brown and two-time reigning NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry to form an elite skill-position trio for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. However, there’s now a need at tight end for the Titans if they are indeed going all in. Robinson touched on that recently by indicating that they are monitoring the tight end situation around the league.
As for the defensive side of the ball, pass rush remains in overriding need for the Tennessee Titans. They recorded just 19 sacks a season ago and didn’t select a pass rusher until Round 4 of the 2021 NFL Draft. That came in the form of Rashad Weaver, who is dealing with some legal issues. Below, we look at three moves the Titans should still make this offseason.
Tennessee Titans trade for Zach Ertz
This would be the culmination of one heck of an offseason in Nashville. By now, it’s well known that the Philadelphia Eagles are looking to trade Ertz. The closer we get to the start of training camp, the likelier it is that their asking price for the three-time Pro Bowler will go down.
Prior to some struggles in 2020, Ertz averaged 86 receptions for 914 yards over the previous five seasons. He’s still a legitimate receiving threat at tight end. Given that Tennessee lost Jonnu Smith to the conference-rival New England Patriots in free agency, this is a major need.
At issue here is Ertz’s contract. Any team that acquires the veteran would be taking on an $8.5 million cap hit for the 2021 season. With that said, there’s ways around this for Tennessee after it picked up Jones’ $15 million hit. That could include restructuring Ryan Tannehill’s contract while saving $15.62 million against the cap. Extending Ertz would also lower his 2021 number.
Tennessee Titans sign Tyler Eifert
This seems to be a likelier scenario for the cash-strapped Titans. Why not take a chance on a former Pro Bowler who has had his injury issues? It’s the type of move that contending teams make on a near never-ending loop.
Tennessee could probably get Eifert near the veteran minimum on a one-year deal. After missing all but 14 games form 2016-18, Eifert has played in all 16 each of the past two years. During that span with the Cincinnati Bengals and Jacksonville Jaguars, he’s recorded a combined 79 receptions for 785 yards.
Tennessee Titans trade for Chandler Jones
Right now, the recently-signed Denico Autry is set to team up with Harold Landry and Bud Dupree as the Titans’ top edge pass rushers in 2021. It’s not a bad trio. The question here is whether the three are enough to contain the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson in the AFC? I am not too sure.
Instead, Robinson and Co. go into full win-now mode by adding this impending free agent. Recent rumors suggest that Chandler Jones could be on the trade block after the Arizona Cardinals added J.J. Watt in free agency earlier this offseason. Prior to an injury-plagued 2020 season, Jones was the NFL’s single best edge pass rusher of the past half decade — recording 116 quarterback hits and 72.5 sacks from 2015-19.
As with Ertz, it is all about the salary cap for the Tennessee Titans here. Jones would cost $15.5 million for an acquiring team. It would take salary cap gymnastics, but the Titans could make this work. In addition to restructuring Tannehill, they would save a combined $14-plus million by doing the same thing with Kevin Byard and Derrick Henry. Just some food for thought. They could also extend Jones, lowering his 2021 number in the process.