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Ran Carthon is Assembling a Squad

Updated: 4 days ago

On January 18th, 2023, the Tenessee Titans hired Ran Carthon as their General Manager.

Pairing him with then Head Coach, Mike Vrabel, he was promised a hand in not only player acquisition, but in other realms of team management, too.

Carthon's first offseason with Tennessee came after a horrendous end to the Titans' 2022-23 season in which they lost the final 7 games to miss out on the postseason. With a new era emerging, Tennessee made some intriguing moves.

The team signed LB Azeez Al-Shaair, OLB Arden Key, CB Sean Murphy-Bunting, and WR DeAndre Hopkins.

Through the draft, Carthon added multiple starters, including the team's franchise Quarterback at pick 33. The first 3 rounds were stellar, adding Peter Skoronski, Will Levis, and Tyjae Spears.

On the flipside, they also added Andre Dillard who they cut this offseason, and ultimately let Al-Shaair and Murphy-Bunting walk this offseason. This is not all bad, though, and was a part of Carthon's larger vision.

Not to say Carthon foresaw Vrabel's ousting, but his approach to the 2023 offseason was vital to the team's presently strengthening roster.

Not only did he ensure one of the league's best cap positions heading into the 2024 offseason, but 1 year deals allowed for a degree of mobility. While Al-Shaair and Denico Autry were 2 of the team's 4 most important players in 2023-24, these expiring contracts gave Carthon even more freedom to assemble the squad he desires.

With Vrabel's influence no more, he is now making his own decisions and working alongside his own hire, Brian Callahan.

The 2023 roster had glaring holes. Not to say these were entirely ignored, but it appears many of Carthon's actions were to set the team up for the future.

In working with Callahan, Carthon has made a number of stellar moves and is working toward a clear vision of the Tennessee Titans, firstly, through free agency:

C Lloyd Cushenberry III

After a porous 2023 season, the Titans' offensive line began free agency by adding some much needed help. The Titans made Cushenberry, 27, the 5th highest paid center in the league, and for good reason. In 2023, he did not give up a single sack and allowed fewer than 10 pressures despite starting all 17 games. Cusheneberry has already worked closely with Will Levis and received praise from legendary offensive line coach and new Titans' hire, Bill Callahan.

CB Chidobe Awuzie

Awuzie brings needed experience and a strong ball-playing ability to the secondary. After a torn ACL in 2022, he recovered admirably and played in 15 games for Cincinnati last season. He received a notable salary of 12m/year, making him the 14th highest paid CB in the league, bringing with it some considerable expectations. While he struggled against top WR targets with the Bengals, he has an exciting opportunity to play the nickel, largely avoid top receivers, and join the makings of an elite secondary.

LB Kenneth Murray Jr.

In 2023, Murray started 15 games for the Chargers, totaling 107 tackles on the season. A direct replacement to Al-Shaair, Murray signed a 2 year deal and could prove to be an underrated pickup with room to grow. A former first round pick, Murray is just 25 and was, shockingly, not retained by Los Angeles.

WR Calvin Ridley

A huge free agency splash, Ridley comes from the Jaguars in a rather strange turn of events. After missing 2022 due to a gambling suspension, Ridley was traded from Atlanta, where he had great success, to Jacksonville. After a respectable yet inconsistent 1,000 yard season, the Titans made a major move to secure him, paying him more than the likes of Stefon Diggs, Tee Higgins, and DJ Moore. While surprising, Carthon's belief in Ridley is obvious.

Despite his age--30--Ridley provides a well-rounded skillset and elite route running ability. When paired with Hopkins, this makes one of the most dangerous duos in the league.

CB L'Jarius Sneed (Trade)

In March, the Titans acquired one of the league's best defensive players in L'Jarius Sneed. Upon completion of the deal, Sneed signed a 4 extension with Tennessee, totaling $76,400,000, making him the 7th highest paid CB in the league.

A 2020 4th round pick, Sneed was imperative to the Chiefs Super Bowl. For reference, here's how he did against some of the top receivers in the NFL:

Justin Jefferson: 2 catches, 14 yards

AJ Brown: 1 catch, 4 yards

Davante Adams: 6 catches, 66 yards

Stefon Diggs: 1 catch, 3 yards

Ja'Marr Chase: 2 catches, 27 yards

Needless to say, Sneed is the kind of lockdown corner we have not seen in Tennessee in some time. A far fetch from the Titans 2023 secondary, this move is both the secondary and team's most important of the offseason.

WR Tyler Boyd

The team's most recent signing, Tyler Boyd reunites with Head Coach Brian Callahan who was his offensive coordinator for 4 seasons in Cincinnati. Boyd, 29, gives Tennessee receiver depth we have not seen in years and will play in the slot, per Callahan. The 2-time thousand yard receiver had been largely overshadowed by Tee Higgins and Ja'Marr Chase in Cincinnati and is now presented with an opportunity to put up some impressive numbers, especially in terms of receptions.

The Titans 2024 Draft Class was another strong showing from Carthon, adding 3 potential Day 1 starters with the team's first 3 picks. Contrary to mainstream dismissal, the draft class fills obvious needs, clearly aligns with the vision of the new HC-GM duo, and should be graded as such:

Round 1 | Pick 7 | OT JC Latham

Each offensive line move of the offseason can be viewed through the lens of the Bill Callahan hiring. While the media suspected Joe Alt to the Titans, Latham was Callahan's top draft target all along. This pick supports a key pillar of the Titans new player acquisition approach. "There are not a lot of guys that look like him on earth." Callahan said. His impressive combination of athletic ability and size makes for an exciting pick. Per Carthon, he will begin at left tackle, filling one of the most important, and recently, lacking, positions on the team.

Round 2 | Pick 38 | DT T'Vondre Sweat

Adding further size in the draft, Sweat is a threatening lineman at 6'5, 362lbs. An Autry replacement, Sweat has faced criticism about an arrest, lack of drive, and poor conditioning. He has already garnered praise from coaches, been upfront about his off the field issues, and is addressing his health with a number of professionals, however. He has impressive run-stopping ability and can move at alarming speeds given his size. Playing alongside Jeffery Simmons, the Titans are assembling an elite and intimidating interior line. It is certainly hard to think of a more physically imposing draft duo than Latham and Sweat.

Round 4 | Pick 106 | LB Cedric Gray

A first team all-ACC member and Butkus Award semifinalist, an award for the countries' top linebacker, Gray is an elite value in the fourth round. He registered a sack, hit, or hurry in 11 of 12 games last season and finished his junior season with 145 tackles, the most among Power Five players. With the departure of Al-Shaair, this move is imperative, acquiring a potential Day 1 starter on Day 2 of the draft.

While much of 2023 was spent sorting out the Titans' obvious indecisiveness at the Quarterback position, Tennessee's answer has, thankfully, emerged.

Supported by this plethora of moves and constant backing, Will Levis has an impressive supporting cast and is, frankly, the leader of a win-now football team.

To use David Poile's term, Carthon is constructing somewhat of a "competitive rebuild."

While some view his first year and a half on the job as a mishmash of moves, he and Callahan are building a physical, athletic, and offensive football team that will be a 180 degree turn from the "exotic smashmouth" Titans of late.

With a mix of veterans and young players acquired this offseason, elite talent on both sides of the ball such, and an improved, modern coaching staff who can best utilize these resources, times are looking more exciting in Tennessee.

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