The Tennessee Titans will soon enter free agency and what they do there could determine the success or failure of the 2011 NFL season.
I say that because the Titans, despite drafting QB Jake Locker with eighth overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, could be in the market for a veteran quarterback if Locker isn't ready to play right away or if they can't get another year out of QB Kerry Collins. QB Vince Young is expected to be traded or released and QB Rusty Smith's career four interceptions to no touchdowns isn't exactly inspiring. So the Titans could still be looking for the man that will line up under center in 2011 allowing Locker some time to adjust to the pro game.
The Titans do have other needs, though, that will need to be addressed moving forward.
Needs addressed in the 2011 NFL draft: Selecting Locker took away the need for a long-term solution at quarterback. LBs Akeem Ayers and Colin McCarthy also hit on a couple areas of need and should help brace for LB Stephen Tulloch's loss, if he leaves. I also like the addition of DT Jurrell Casey out of USC. He won't be DT Albert Haynesworth but he's the first true run at replacing him. RB Jamie Harper also adds some running back depth which is a smart move considering the Titans are a run-heavy offense. He'll be a heavier back to pair with RB Chris Johnson.
Remaining needs: SB Nation's Music City Miracles identifies four major areas of need. First, a veteran quarterback if Locker isn't ready to go. MCM suggests QB Matt Hasselbeck but I'm not sure they pay him with some potentially cheaper options. Second a tight end will be needed at some point.
Bo Scaife is gone. That only leaves Jared Cook and Craig Stevens on the roster. Cook really came on at the end of 2010, but he isn't ever going to set the world on fire as a blocker. I would expect them to bring in a tight end that is more of a blocker than a pass catcher.
Third, the Titans could be looking for more defensive line help, even with the drafting of Casey. Jason Jones could be moved outside and who knows if Tony Brown will be healthy.
That means the Titans are left with Sen'Derrick Marks, Jovan Haye, Marques Douglas and Malcolm Sheppard at DT without the rookies. My guess is that they would like to not have to pay Haye the money he is owed, so they will be looking for a cheap rotation alternative.
Fourth, the Titans could be looking for safety help despite drafting a pair of guys last year.
Chris Hope is another guy that I think the Titans would like to get off their books. They drafted Robert Johnson and Myron Rolle last year. Whether or not they target a safety in free agency will depend on how they feel about the ability of those guys. The best case scenario would be for one of them to take Hope's spot, but neither of them have showed anything to this point to say that they are ready.
Options in free agency: The biggest position to worry about for the Titans is quarterback because it's obviously the most important. There are a few veterans they could consider -- Hasselbeck or QB Marc Bulger. The problem with that is that the lockout could last until August or September which wouldn't give the Titans enough time to sign a quarterback and install him as the starter. So ultimately I think their best option is bringing Collins back. If they're looking to get bigger at defensive tackle, there aren't a lot of free agency options. Aubrayo Franklin will be very expensive so for a cheap option I wonder if someone like Ron Edwards would make sense as a stop gap.