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Johnathan Cyprien will sign with Titans, but doesn’t really fill their pass defense needs

The hard-hitting safety will depart Jacksonville for Tennessee.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Johnathan Cyprien, one of the top defensive backs on the 2017 NFL free agent market, will leave the only pro team he’s called home. The former Jaguar will leave northern Florida for Nashville on Thursday, according to ESPN reporter Adam Schefter.

Cyprien grades out as one of the league’s best tacklers from the safety position. He led the NFL in run stops with 27 in the 2016 regular season, but has never stood out as a top coverage defender. He’s only recorded two interceptions in his four-year career.

That could be a tough pill for the Titans to swallow. Tennessee ranked 29th in the league when it came to passing yards allowed thanks to a limited secondary that struggled to slow opposing offenses. While the former Jaguar offers a vital last line of defense against breakaway tailbacks, he fails to offer the elite over-the-top help coverage the Titans need.

Cyprien took the long way to the league, developing from a two-star high school prospect into a three-time All-Sun Belt standout at Florida International. He parlayed that success into a selection at the top of the second round of the 2013 NFL draft, where Jacksonville turned him into its starting strong safety. While he’s never known any sustained team success in the NFL — the Jaguars are just 14-46 with Cyprien in the lineup — he’s been one of the league’s most consistent young safeties.

In four years he’s been responsible for 449 tackles for a defense that’s needed all the stops it could get. While he hasn’t been a stalwart against the pass and has only created a pair of interceptions in his four seasons as a pro, he’s a dynamic tackler who fits in well as a true strong safety rather than a rangy ballhawk.

That lack of coverage ability will keep him from making headlines as an All-Pro, but Cyprien is a valuable defender who can excel in the right setting. Jacksonville gave up a place to showcase his talent, but ultimately prevented him from truly breaking out. Now, he’ll have a chance to take his game to the next level with the Titans. At age 26, his best games are likely still in front of him.