It’s Totally Fair to Criticize the Titans Plan at Linebacker

It is totally fair to criticize the Titans plan at linebacker after seeing how free agency has played out thus far.

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I’ve been a big fan of what Ran Carthon has done in free agency for the Tennessee Titans so far. I loved the Tony Pollard signing…the Lloyd Cushenberry signing…the Calvin Ridley signing…the Chidobe Awuzie signing…you get it. I talked all about that on the latest episode of The Unofficial Titans Podcast. You don’t need me to go through it again. If you listened to that show, you already know that I was skeptical of the Kenneth Murray signing. It’s clear they see something in him that his tape hasn’t necessarily shown thus far in his career, but I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Murray can be an effective downhill “don’t-think” linebacker who pursues running backs and quarterbacks who get a little frisky and leave the pocket. His athletic testing was off the charts, so it’s clear they want athletes.

But, as we’ve made it through the weekend and Murray remains the only linebacker signing outside of tendering Dr. Gibby, I think it’s fair to question just what the hell the plan is. Who is going to be wearing the green dot for this defense come September?

I know the common response to all of this has been that “they can’t fix everything in one offseason.” Honestly, the discourse this weekend has been driving me fucking nuts. What they’re doing at linebacker is a hell of a lot different than what’s going on at, say, safety, where there are still quality options available in free agency. It’s not the same as what’s going on at tackle either, where there’s a wealth of quality options in the draft. That’s why what they’ve done is so perplexing. I understand that they’re not going to check off 25 boxes in free agency. But, the market should dictate how they attack the need. The market said “hey, there’s not just some quality free agent linebackers, there are some difference-making free agent linebackers.” It was right there for this team, and they just chose not to pursue the need beyond Gibbens and Murray.

They need the guy at linebacker. It’s a glaring need, and I don’t know that they even tried with some of the linebackers at the top of this market. You may say that it takes two to tango…that maybe there was an offer on the table but the free agent has to also agree to come to Tennessee. So, you’re telling me they couldn’t convince at least one of Patrick Queen, Josey Jewell, Azeez Al-Shaair, Willie Gay, Frankie Luvu, Devin White, or even Sione Takitaki to come to Tennessee? That’s what’s frustrating – as far as we know, Jerome Baker was the only linebacker other than Murray that they were ever really interested in. If they were to play this game at offensive tackle, it wouldn’t be popular, but I could at least understand it because of how good this tackle class is. But, that’s not the case at linebacker. I like Payton Wilson, but that’s about it so far if we’re talking about guys who look NFL-ready. There’s a plethora of fun developmental prospects on Day 3 or as UDFAs, but the Titans already tried that route with Monty Rice and Jack Gibbens last year and look where it got them.

It was right there…a solid free agent linebacker class…and now, the market has dried up. Spare me the “they can wait for cuts” argument. No quality player is going to be cut during the summer. It’s not just that they simply didn’t get the linebacker they wanted. It’s that they let this class of quality free agents slip through their fingers like sand. I don’t think the linebacker position has been devalued. If you watched the Ravens and 49ers play in 2023, I don’t see how you could possibly think the position is unimportant because of how having two really good inside linebackers helped to unlock the full potential of each unit. But, maybe Carthon and Brian Callahan don’t see it that way.

Maybe their plan is to go after Dre Greenlaw or Nick Bolton in free agency next year. But, I don’t know that that would be a wise decision. They’ve preached patience this offseason and said that it’s going to be a multi-year process, but Amy Adams Strunk has shown us that when she feels like the team is trending in the wrong direction, she’s willing to make a change. Unless they’ve had clear communication about a three-year plan or something, I don’t think I’d want to test her patience.

I’m even willing to give them a pass for how they’ve handled the defensive line so far because while some might feel mixed up about this year’s draft class, I like the depth among defensive line prospects. But, come on, guys…the way they’ve handled the linebacker position has been baffling. It’s okay to be stoked about the rest of this free agent class. It’s also okay to be objective and admit that the Titans have botched the retooling of this linebacking corps so far. The pushback on this critique has been insane.

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Stoney Keeley is the Editor in Chief of The SoBros Network, and a Dogs Playing Poker on velvet connoisseur. He is a strong supporter of Team GSD, #BeBetter, and ‘Minds right, asses tight.’ “Big Natural” covers the Tennessee Titans, Nashville, Yankee Candle, and a whole wealth of nonsense. Follow on Twitter @StoneyKeeley.

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