After coming up short in the Wild Card round of the 2020-2021 NFL Playoffs, the Tennessee Titans head into the 2021 free agency period facing several questions. With 29 players who will be free agents in 2021 and potential cap issues, the Titans could struggle to bring back names like Corey Davis, Jadeveon Clowney, and Jonnu Smith.
Mike Vrabel and the Titans have several big free agent decisions to make in 2021
While the Tennesse Titans have seen playoff berths in the last two seasons, they are not at the point where they crack the upper levels of the AFC. Following a Wild Card ousting after an 11-5 record and the AFC South title, the Titans could look quite different in 2021.
One thing that won’t be any different, however, is their style of play. After locking up Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill to multi-year contracts, the lifeblood of the Titans is going nowhere.
On the contrary, that cannot be said for other positions. As a result of the salary cap expecting to drop to an estimated $176 million in 2021, the Tennessee Titans are sitting $7.89 million over the salary cap, according to Over the Cap.
The Titans face three large decisions once free agency begins
While the Titans have 29 players who will be free agents, both restricted and unrestricted, there are three critical players who GM Jon Robinson needs to focus his attention on in 2021.
Will Jadeveon Clowney return to Tennessee in 2021?
Whatever Jadeveon Clowney and his team thought would happen while negotiating for contracts, the last two seasons clearly backfired. After failing to secure the $20 million/annual multi-year deal he was initially seeking in free agency, Clowney signed a one-year, $13 million “prove-it” deal with the Titans.
His detractors point out that he does not get sacks and has difficulty staying on the field. As a result, 2020 was his time to reset the narrative. Well, Clowney failed to record a sack, and his season ended after eight games due to knee surgery.
After a failed attempt to quiet his critics, Clowney now carries an estimated market value of only $6.5 million on a one-year deal, according to Spotrac. Maybe he shouldn’t have played hardball last season, after all?
Given the drop in value, the Titans could bring back Clowney in free agency, but they also need to add to the pass rush off the edge. Clowney is not a disruptor, and between free agents Yannick Ngakoue or Shaquil Barrett, Vrabel could get a massive boost to his defense.
Did Corey Davis price himself out of Tennessee as a free agent in 2021?
WR Corey Davis had his best season ever as a professional, and it came at the perfect time. As a matter of fact, Davis totaled career-highs in receiving yards (984), touchdowns (5), and 100-yard games (5). In addition, he tied his career-high mark in receptions with 65.
Now, Davis will be a free agent this offseason after the Titans declined his fifth-year option prior to the 2021 season kicking off.
Spotrac estimates Davis’ market value at $9.8 million on a four-year, $39.45 million contract. The money will be tight for Tennessee, but bringing back Davis should be a priority as he and A.J. Brown combined for one of the best duos in football last season.
Will free agent TE Jonnu Smith return to the Titans in 2021?
Jonnu Smith had career-highs in receptions (41), receiving yards (448), and touchdowns (8) in 2020, but it still seemed like a disappointment.
This is primarily due to the drop in production over the back half of the season, which can be attributed to a change in role. After OT Taylor Lewan went down with a torn ACL, Smith was kept back in-line as a blocker given his physical nature as a player.
In his first four games of 2020, Smith showed he could ascend into the position’s upper echelon after catching 25 passes for 221 yards and 5 touchdowns.
According to Spotrac, the 25-year-old TE carries an estimated $8 million market value on a five-year, $40.3 million deal. Smith would be the sixth-highest in annual contract value for the position.
In reality, it comes down to what the Titans plan on doing with Smith moving forward. There is no reason to pay a tight end $8 million per season to stay behind and block. As I said earlier, I think it was due to circumstance. However, it’s not as if the offense slowed down either. Tennessee had six games over 35 points, coming after Lewan’s injury and Smith’s change in role — five if you include that game.
If the Titans bring Jonnu Smith back in free agency, he needs to be a focal point of the offense. Otherwise, why spend the money?
Tennessee Titans’ 2021 offensive free agents
FB Khari Blasingame, 25
WR Corey Davis, 26
G Jamil Douglas, 29
TE Anthony Firkser, 26
RB D’Onta Foreman, 25
T Marshall Newhouse, 33
RB Senorise Perry, 30
TE MyCole Pruitt, 29
WR Kalif Raymond, 27
T Ty Sambrailo, 29
TE Jonnu Smith, 26
TE Geoff Swaim, 28
WR Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, 24
Tennessee Titans’ 2021 defensive and special teams free agents
LB Daren Bates, 31
CB Breon Borders, 26
LB Jayon Brown, 26
DE Jadeveon Clowney, 28
LB Will Compton, 32
DL Jack Crawford, 33
DE Matt Dickerson, 26
LB Nick Dzubnar, 30
K Stephen Gostkowski, 37
DT DaQuan Jones, 30
CB Joshua Kalu, 26
FS Desmond King, 27
CB Chris Milton, 29
LS Matt Overton, 36
DE Wyatt Ray, 25
CB Tye Smith, 28
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