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Tennessee Titans free agency 2021: Top 5 targets

Fansided logo Fansided 2/25/2021 Russell S. Baxter
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CINCINNATI, OH – NOVEMBER 29: Cameron Fleming #75 of the New York Giants blocks against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on November 29, 2020 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

The club won the AFC South this past season for the first time since 2008.

It was a season that started out with five consecutive wins. But you could tell early on that the Tennessee Titans were a flawed football team – most notably on the defensive side of the ball.

When it was all said and done, Mike Vrabel's club did just enough to win the AFC South and capture a division title for the first time since 2008. But unlike their 2019 playoff run, it was one and done for this club as the Baltimore Ravens went to Nashville and got playoff revenge in the AFC wild card round.

Now the club looks to fix what ailed it for the most part. The Titans scored 491 points and but allowed a whopping 439 points, the most by any of the 14 playoff teams. Hence the emphasis here is on the defensive side of the ball, where the team has its share of potential free agents (via Spotrac) that might need to be replaced. But the club doesn't have a lot of salary cap room at the moment, so…

5. T Cameron Fleming (New York Giants)

Taylor Lewan is one of the best left tackles in the league. A three-time Pro Bowler and the 11th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, he's been an emotional leader for this franchise. But six games in 2020, he suffered a knee injury that cost him the remainder of the season.

Fleming appears to be on the mend (via Erik Bacharach of the Nashville Tennessean) and should be ready sooner than later. But it wouldn't hurt if the Titans signed a little veteran insurance considering backups  Ty Sambrailo and Marshall Newhouse are slated for free agency.

After stints with the Patriots and Cowboys, seven-year tackle Cameron Fleming was a 16-game starter with the New York Giants in 2020. He could add proven depth as well as serve as a solid insurance policy.

Next: No. 4
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COSTA MESA, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 25: Melvin Ingram III #54 of the Los Angeles Chargers runs a drill during Los Angeles Chargers Training Camp at the Jack Hammett Sports Complex on August 25, 2020 in Costa Mesa, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

4. OLB/DE Melvin Ingram (Los Angeles Chargers)

This won't be the only time that the Tennessee pass rush is addressed in this piece. So what exactly happened this past season that saw this club manage a mere 19 sacks – the third-fewest total in the league? Was it a lack of talent or was it the scheme?

The Titans didn't really have a designated defensive coordinator this past season but now Shane Bowen officially has the title – this after being a big part of the play-calling in 2020.

Outside linebacker Harold Landry led the club with 5.5 QB traps and added two more in the playoff loss to the Ravens. Meanwhile, the other 13.5 sacks were divided up by 10 other players.

Nine-year veteran Melvin Ingram suffered through a forgettable 2020 NFL campaign, playing in only seven games and winding up on injured reserve twice. He finished with 10 tackles, one interception, two passes defensed and zero sacks.

In Ingram's previous eight seasons, the 18th-overall pick in the 2012 draft racked up 49 quarterback traps and he's played both on the defensive front and outside linebacker.

The three-time Pro Bowler finished with a career-high 10.5 sacks in 2015 and '17. He's totaled 14 forced fumbles and 10 takeaways during his nine NFL seasons. It's safe to say that the league's 28th-ranked defense can use all the help it can get.

Next: No. 3
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JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – NOVEMBER 29: Tyler Eifert #88 of the Jacksonville Jaguars is tackled by Tavierre Thomas #20 of the Cleveland Browns in the first quarter at TIAA Bank Field on November 29, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

3. TE Tyler Eifert (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Imposing Jonnu Smith is an emerging performer who has really come into his own these past two seasons. And quarterback Ryan Tannehill has played a big part in that growth of the four-year tight end.

After totaling only 38 catches – five for scores – in 29 games in his first two years in the league, the 2017 third-round pick from Florida International has hauled in 76 passes for 887 yards and 11 touchdowns in 31 regular-season contests since.

But will the Titans be able to retain Smith? He could command a big price on the open market. And it would not be out of the question for general manager Jon Robinson and the organization to place the franchise tag on the emerging talent.

If not, veteran Tyler Eifert could be an inviting option. Via Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the Jacksonville Jaguars are not expected to pick up the option on the second year of the two-year deal he signed last offseason. That would make the eight-year veteran an unrestricted free agent on March 17.

A year after playing in all 16 games for the first time in his eight year career, Eifert played in 15 games with the Jaguars and totaled 36 catches for 349 yards and a pair of scores.

Next: No. 2
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EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – SEPTEMBER 27: Jaquiski Tartt #29 of the San Francisco 49ers reacts after breaking up a pass to Golden Tate #15 of the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on September 27, 2020 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)ALL

2. SS Jaquiski Tartt (San Francisco 49ers)

When there's a lack of a pass rush makes life for a secondary even more difficult. But it just wasn't the team's pass defense that plagued the Tennessee Titans in 2020. The club slipped badly when it came to stopping the run, ranking 19th in the league in that department and allowing 120.8 yards per game on the ground. The team was gashed by Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens to the tune of 236 yards rushing in the 20-13 Wild Card loss at home.

The biggest knock on San Francisco 49ers' strong safety Jaquiski Tartt has been his failure to stay healthy. The 46th-overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft has missed a total of 30 contests in six seasons and has never started all 16 contests in any NFL campaign.

Tartt played and started in seven games in 2020 and finished with 28 tackles, four passes defensed, one interception and a pair of stops on special teams.

The 29-year-old product of Samford University could add a little additional physicality to a defense that as pushed around far too many times this past season. The Titans surrendered 398.3 total yards per game and permitted 30-plus points in eight of their 16 regular-season contests.

Next: No. 1
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JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – NOVEMBER 08: J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans rushes the passer as Tyler Eifert #88 of the Jacksonville Jaguars defends during the first half at TIAA Bank Field on November 08, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

1. DE J.J. Watt (Released by Houston Texans)

It would seem to be a perfect fit. The player is not only familiar with the team but their current head coach as well. Mike Vrabel was with the Houston Texans for four years and the club's defensive coordinator in 2017 before taking over the top spot in Nashville.

So when asked about the 10-year pro last week by a fan (via Jim Wyatt of TennesseeTitans.com) during a Q&A with season ticket holder, the team's head coach had this to say:

When you go into free agency, there's a lot of things about player acquisition that go into it: What is best for your football team? Cost is also a part of it. The fit is a part of it, and then the need…You mentioned J.J. Watt, and there will be other veteran players that become available that we'll have discussions on, and we have had discussions on J.J. Watt…There's a lot of things that go into bringing in free agents, certainly ones that are past 30 or in the back half of their career. Those are all things that you wage and determine.

Watt can be signed immediately. And via John Clayton, the Titans and numerous other teams are still in the running for his services. But he would certainly be an ideal fit in Nashville. Is a reunion with Vrabel on the horizon?

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