Jake Locker is coming off shoulder surgery (USA Today Sports Images)
Over the next few weeks, "Shutdown Corner" will pay homage to "Office Space" (TPS reports) as we take a quick look back at each team's 2012 season and a look at what lies ahead for the 2013 offseason. We continue our spin around the AFC South with the Tennessee Titans.
2012 record: 6-10
What went wrong: Starting quarterback Jake Locker injured his left shoulder twice in the opening month of the season, an injury that basically cost the 2011 first-round pick six games in the middle of a season that was critical for his development. Locker would return and, over the final seven games of the season, complete 52.8 percent of his pass attempts with more interceptions (nine) than touchdowns (six). Chris Johnson, one of the highest-paid running backs in the NFL, opened the season by rushing for 210 yards on his first 73 rushing attempts, failing to crack 25 rushing yards in four of those games. Johnson would run for 1,243 yards and six touchdowns, but ranked just 33rd among NFL running backs in Football Outsiders' DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) metric. Of course, it's difficult to get an accurate read on Locker and Johnson as 80 percent of the projected starting offensive line, plus tight end Jared Cook, finished the season on injured reserve. Wide receiver Kenny Britt served a one-game suspension to start the season and, in his first season after a major knee injury, had just 45 receptions for 589 yards and four touchdowns, ranking 83rd in the league, and third on the team behind Nate Washington and first-round pick Kendall Wright, in FO's receiving DYAR metric.
Tennessee's defense ranked 27th in total defense and were 32nd in scoring defense, allowing 29.4 points per game. According to Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted metrics, the Titans were the NFL's 25th-ranked defense, cracking the Top 20 (19th) against the pass, but were near the bottom (29th) against the run. A major issue on defense was the absence of middle linebacker Colin McCarthy, who missed nine games due to an ankle injury and a season-ending concussion.
The Titans hit a low point when owner Bud Adams publicly ripped his team's performance after a 51-20 loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 9.
What went right: That much-maligned defense did have a decent stretch of games late in the season – allowed 285.8 yards – before facing the Green Bay Packers. The Titans' pass rush, which had just 28 sacks in 2011, got to opposing quarterbacks 39 times last season, a number buoyed by outside linebackers Akeem Ayers (six) and rookie Zach Brown, who had 5.5 sacks and a team-high 11 tackles for loss. Brown was also second on the team with three interceptions, while Ayers led the Titans in tackles (104). Cornerback Jason McCourty validated his five-year, $43.04 million extension, which included $17 million in guaranteed money, by intercepting a team-high four interceptions, a career-high for the 2009 sixth-round pick out of Rutgers.
Coaching/front office changes: Titans vice president and COO Mike Reinfeldt was (inexplicably) deemed redundant by owner Bud Adams and was fired after the conclusion of the season. The rest of the front office remains intact. Head coach Mike Munchak was retained for 2013 and there have been several staff changes. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, who had taken over those duties from Chris Palmer for the final five games of the 2012 season, was named the full-time offensive coordinator, with Shawn Jefferson (receivers), George Henshaw (tight ends) and Sylvester Croom (running backs) added to the staff. Dave Ragone moved from receivers coach to quarterbacks coach, Nate Kaczor moved from special teams coach to assistant offensive line coach and Chet Parlavecchio moved special teams assistant to linebackers coach, while Frank Bush (linebackers), Alan Lowery (special teams), Jim Skipper (running backs) and John Zernhelt (tight ends) were not retained. The Titans have also added Gregg Williams as a senior defensive assistant and Steve Hoffman as assistant special teams coach.
Estimated 2013 cap space: $17.19 million
Jared Cook could receive the franchise tag (USA Today Sports Images)
Possible cap casualties: With quarterback Jake Locker coming off surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder, the Titans are unlikely to part ways with 37-year-old Matt Hasselbeck, who is reportedly willing to renegotiate his contract to remain in Nashville. Hasselbeck is due $5.5 million in base salary and has a $7.5 million cap number in 2013. Last offseason, the Titans added veteran guard Steve Hutchinson with a three-year, $16.75 million contract. The 35-year-old finished the season on injured reserve, raising questions about his long-term NFL future. Hutchinson is scheduled to earn $5.25 million in 2013, including a $500,000 roster bonus that is due on March 14. Releasing Hutchinson would clear $3.75 million in cap space and save $5.25 million in cash.
Staying on the offensive line, backup center/guard Eugene Amano is due $3.935 million in base salary in 2013 and his release would free up $1.868 million in cap space. Safety Jordan Babineaux had an up-and-down season, demoted at the beginning and end of the season. The 30-year-old has one year remaining on a two-year extension and is due $1.6 million in base salary.
Unrestricted free agents
Xavier Adibi, LB
Dave Ball, DE
Rob Bironas, K
Jared Cook, TE
Keyunta Dawson, DE
Zac Diles, LB
Leger Douzable, DT
Leroy Harris, C/G
Quinn Johnson, FB
Deuce Lutui, G
Sen'Derrick Marks, DT
Gerald McRath, LB
Ryan Mouton, CB
Darius Reynaud, RB
Javon Ringer, RB
Will Witherspoon, LB
Jarius Wynn, DE
Restricted free agents:
Fernando Velasco, C/G
RFA tender amounts in 2013 are:
• $1.323 million for right of first refusal and/or original draft round compensation
• $2.023 for right of first refusal and second round draft selection
• $2.879 for right of first refusal and first round draft selection
Franchise Tag candidates: If the Titans place the franchise tag on any of their free agents, the most likely candidate is tight end Jared Cook. Though Cook has started just 11 games in his NFL career, Cook is 6-foot-5, weighs 248 pounds and has the potential to be a dynamic, game-breaking tight end. In 2011, Cook's production took off, with the former South Carolina Gamecock catching 49 passes for 759 yards and three touchdowns, ranking 13th among tight ends in Football Outsiders' DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) metric. Cook was not as impactful in 2012, but did catch 44 passes and established a career-high with four touchdown receptions before he was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. Based on a projected league-wide cap number of $121.1 million in 2013, the franchise tender for a tight end is estimated to be worth $5.973 million.
Previous installments of the "Offseason TPS Reports" series:
- American Football
- Sports & Recreation
- Tennessee Titans
- Jared Cook
- Jake Locker
- Football Outsiders