AFC South Offseason Report: Tennessee Titans

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 11: Quarterback Jake Locker #10 of the Tennessee Titans reaches the ball over the goal line for a touchdown during a game against the New Orleans Saints at LP Field on December 11, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Saints defeated the Titans 22-17. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Did you know the Titans finished with a winning record in 2011? No, seriously they finished 9-7. Maybe it was just me, but they never really felt like that good of a team to me and certainly snuck under the radar en route to their fifth winning season as members of the AFC South.

In Mike Munchak's first season as head coach, the Matt Hasselbeck-led Titans finished 17th in total offense and 18th in total defense. That's a stat that very much embodies who the 2011 Titans were. Just a supremely average football team capable of finishing with a winning record, but not quite powerful enough to compete for a championship.

But with a top 10 draft pick in 2011 invested in a quarterback that had very little role in his rookie year, the ceiling for the Tennessee offense to get better is certainly there. However, whether or not Jake Locker sits another year is a question that has still not been answered.

Until that question gets the official answer on week one, an actual idea of what to expect from the Titans is still in the air to some degree.

Free Agency

Perhaps the most notable news for the Titans in the 2012 free agency period was the departure of All-Pro cornerback Cortland Finnegan to the St. Louis Rams. With Finnegan out, the Titans will have to hope that the pairing of Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner can fill the void. The loss of defensive tackle Jason Jones and linebacker Barrett Ruud to the Seahawks also cost the Titans defense a playmaker.

But besides the loss of Finnegan and Jones, the Titans did add some players in free agency that should have an impact. Signing Kamerion Wimbley, Zac Diles and Leger Douzable certainly add talent to the front seven and Steve Hutchinson helps on the interior offensive line, perhaps the biggest weakness for the Titans to address this offseason.

Draft

With a severe drop off from Chris Johnson's 2,000 yard rushing season to a 1,000 yard season, it seemed obvious that the Titans should target offensive lineman to get CJ back on track. There was talk that they could trade up for Stanford G David DeCastro, yet with him still on the board for them at the 20th pick, they instead selected Kendall Wright.

While Wright will certainly add an interesting spice to the offense, Castro is a pick that seemed too logical to pass up for the Titans and the fact that they didn't select an offensive lineman with any of their next six selections didn't help much.

That said, the Titans did make an effort to add speed and athleticism in the draft with Wright, Zach Brown, Mike Martin, Coty Sensabaugh and Taylor Thompson with their first five picks. Maybe that's what a supremely average team needs to become more than that.

Conclusion

Barring a rash of injuries, I don't think the Titans will be a bad football team. But with Hasslbeck still at the helm and the likely starter, it would also surprise me if they're legitimately good. Instead another close-to-.500 season where the Titans compete for a spot in the playoffs seems the most likely scenario.

If Locker takes over after beating Hasselbeck in camp (which is a very real possibility), the ceiling for the team goes up in my eyes, but it would essentially be his rookie year and that very rarely goes really, really well.

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