It’s no secret the two most important items of business facing the Titans are free agency and the draft.
They need to hit home runs in both areas.
While the Titans have never been known as big spenders in free agency - either acquiring free agents or paying their own in order to keep them - owner Bud Adams needs to go to the vault this year instead of gathering up the change from under his couch cushions.
There are obvious positions of need if coach Mike Munchak and an assortment of new assistant coaches are to see another season at LP Field.
They need pivotal upgrades on both the offensive and defensive lines. Veteran offensive guard Steve Hutchinson was injured much of the season after being acquired last year as a free agent. At 35, his best days are behind him. If right tackle David Stewart can recover from a broken leg, he is still a force on the O-line, as is left tackle Daniel Roos. Both have eight years in the league. Depth behind them is questionable.
Fernando Velasco seems to have made a home at center, and Titans need to resign the free agent and not let him get away. He is backed up by Eugene Amano, not an ideal replacement. Right guard Leroy Harris has played six years in the trenches and has battled injuries. They need to get a guard via the draft or free agency.
Defensively, safeties Michael Griffin and Jordan Babineaux are either feast or famine. Griffin whiffs on too many tackles and has coverage problems. Babineaux isn’t an answer and needs to earn his keep this season.
On defense, the Titans had 39 quarterback sacks last season, tied for ninth with Carolina in that category. Defensive end Derrick Morgan led the way with 6½, followed by linebacker Akeem Ayers and defensive end Kameron Wimbley, each with six. Linebacker Zach Brown registered 5½ and no other Titan has as many as four sacks.
A disruptive rush end is imperative. Morgan is a former first round pick who showed promise the last part of this season, but too often he has been injured in his first two years.
Pro Football Focus likes Browns free agent linebacker Kaluka Malava. They say he could be an every down ‘backer with coverage and run stopping skills.
All those numbers, as well as missed tackles, have to improve and should with the addition of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. His eyes and opinions will be invaluable as the Titans’ defense tries to pull its share of the load.
There is other lesser needs. They need a dependable, quality running back to share the load with Chris Johnson. Backup Jevon Ringer hasn’t been the answer.
They have confidence Jake Locker will become a quarterback capable of taking them to the playoffs and beyond. To accomplish this, look for new quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone to step forward.
Ragone was a similar quarterback as Locker when he played at Louisville. He wouldn’t hesitate to run when needed. Ragone brings a lot of needed energy to the Titans’ table and it can only help as Locker needs to have a breakout season.
The Titans are $19.4 million under the salary cap and Adams can’t take it with him.
Adams has dealt the cards. The Titans have to play a winning hand. Or else.
Sports Columnist Joe Biddle is a four-time sports writer of the year in Tennessee and a 2013 inductee to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.