Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Don't Worry, Be Happy: Titans Show Restraint Amid Free-Agency Madness

Drew Bennett. Travis Henry. Bobby Wade. Erron Kinney. Zach Piller.

All are gone from the Tennessee Titans—either via free agency or outright release. That’s essentially your leading runner, your two leading wide receivers and one-third of your offensive line.

Now don’t get too excited, but the Titans have re-signed Kerry Collins, Justin Geisinger and Rien Long.

Underwhelming, you say?

Meanwhile, the NFL is going crazy signing free-agent running backs and quarterbacks and linebackers and defensive backs. The wide receivers are getting ready to break out too, and Bennett led the way with a $30 million contract with the Rams. Jeff Garcia’s in Tampa now. Ahman Green in Houston. Thomas Jones went to New York. Napoleon Harris went to Kansas City.

No less a team than the New England Patriots has dipped big-time into the free agency pool. They’ve come up with Adalius Thomas and Wes Welker, both playmakers with huge upsides and youth.

So should we worry that new Titans GM Mike Reinfeldt hasn’t inked some big-name free agent? Or hasn’t held on to Titans he might’ve signed?

I’d have to say no.

First, let’s consider the losses:

1. Bennett—The truth is that he is not a marquee wide receiver. He’s perfect for St. Louis, where they already have legit burners. He’s ideal for that offense as an add-on. I for one have no problem with his going, presuming the Titans have it in mind to get a speedy WR somewhere, either through the draft or free agency. Hmmmm... Randy Moss might be had in a trade. Has he grown up yet?

2. Wade—Loveable, cute Bobby Wade went to Minnesota. No sweat. An earnest ballplayer who always gave 100%. Too bad his speed is only average, and his size negligible. For a wide receiver, the Titans can do better. For a kickoff return man, the Titans can also do better. Bye bye, Bobby.

3. Henry—More problematic, to be sure. Henry’s a gutsy ballplayer. No doubt he’ll do very well in Denver. I can’t say I’m happy he’s gone, but at 28 how many top years does he have left? He’s a very good back, but is he a franchise back? I don’t think so. So we roll the dice with LenDale White, and hope the bosses find a complement to him in free agency, and maybe also another young turk in the draft. (Chris Brown may be gone very soon also from the Titans roster. He once looked like a great back. There may still be potential there, but maybe they’ll have to find that out in Detroit, which is one place he’s been peddling his wares.)

4. Kinney—Injuries and age threaten his career. Who knows? Maybe they’ll re-sign him at some point. A decent all-purpose tight end, with good blocking ability. But the Titans have others at the position, including Ben Troupe, whom they’re still hoping will become an All-Pro.

5. Piller—A solid blocker his entire Titans career. He got banged up last year. He’s not old, but he’s not young either, and the line’s been undergoing a gradual, if subtle, youthful transition. This could be it for Zach.

The signings of Collins, Geisinger, and Long seem pretty superfluous. They are bodies with value but not critical components to the team, unless Long finally fulfills his promise coming off the PUP list. I guess as far as backup QBs go, you could do worse than Collins, and maybe it’s good to have an aging vet there behind Vince Young.

So are the Titans dragging their feet on free agency while the competition snaps up all the talent? I think not.

I mean, did YOU want Ahman Green? He’s 30 years old, injury-prone, and worse, fumble-prone. Why the Texans signed him, I’ll never know. Thomas Jones? Yeah, he’s a tough runner, but gaining 1,300 yards these days isn’t that uncommon. Guess it all depends on how much you want to pay for that kind of yardage.

Then there’s the 49ers, who besides roping in DB Nate Clements for $80 million, also shelled out money for Tully Banta-Cain. Who? Precisely.

This one tops ‘em all: The Atlanta Falcons signed Ovie Mughelli to a six-year, $18 million contract, which, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, made him the highest paid fullback in NFL history. Ovie Mughelli??

Let’s put this in perspective. Ovie Mughelli will be 26 years old in June. He has been on the Ravens’ roster for four seasons, since being drafted in 2003 out of Wake Forest. In his stellar career—no offense, Ovie, just saying—he has rushed the ball 12 times and has gained 50 yards. Wait, okay, he has also caught 24 passes for 195 yards. But aren’t those the kinds of numbers that used to get a guy his walking papers? What, was Ovie this tremendous talent that Brian Billick just capriciously allowed to sit on the bench for four years?

Anyway, if the Titans are going to take their time, and really zero in on specific, high-quality free agents that will fulfill specific needs, then I’m all for that. Plus, they’ve got a full complement of draft choices, and presumably they have plans there. If they’re sticking to their long-held philosophy of building from within, then going nuts with free agents doesn’t make sense.

So don’t panic.

Instead, for now anyway, imagine the Titans beating up on Ahman Green when the Texans come to town. Fumbles = Turnovers = Victory.

No comments: