Titans Sign Austin Hooper but Need More
It has been an active week for Jon Robinson and the Titans. Following the beginning of the new league year on Wednesday, the Titans made a plethora of moves.
They allowed multiple players to enter free agency, namely LB Rashaan Evans, LB Jayon Brown, S Dane Cruikshank, RB D'Onta Foreman, and more.
They released starting Left Guard, Roger Saffold III, who started 30 games over the last two seasons was the teams most consistent lineman last year. I struggle to see how Tennessee replaces Saffold with a better option.
Another notable move was releasing seven time pro bowler and the WR with the most receiving yards per game in NFL history, Julio Jones.
The team acquired Jones in a trade with the Falcons last June, exchanging a 2nd and 4th round pick. Jones suited up for just 10 games in 2021 due to a lingering hamstring injury which has lasted since his time in Atlanta.
He totaled 434 receiving yards on 48 targets and caught one touchdown pass, all career lows: even lower than the 2013 season when he played only 5 games. You can say it was a bad move and the Titans never should have trade for Jones but really, the move made plenty of sense at the time and just did not work out due to a lack of targets and lingering health issues.
After losing TEs MyCole Pruitt and Anthony Firkser, news came out on Friday that the Titans have come to terms with TE Austin Hooper. Hooper, 27, was drafted in 2016 by the Falcons where he had success with QB Matt Ryan. He spent the last two seasons in Cleveland and is coming off his worst statistical season yet, totaling 345 yards and 3 touchdowns.
In Atlanta, Hooper averaged 38 yards per game and scored 16 touchdowns across 4 seasons. He is a big target that is sneakily athletic.
Since releasing Delanie Walker in 2020, the Titans have had very little production from the Tight End position. Hooper is the best receiving Tight End the team has had since Walker and is a good first step to improving the offense around Ryan Tannehill.
Much of Tannehill's struggles in 2021 came because of a lack of talent around him: A.J. Brown and Julio Jones missed 4 and 7 games respectively, the league's rushing leader, Derrick Henry, missed 9 games, and the team did not have a #1 Tight End.
GM Jon Robinson admitted that the team needs to get better around Tannehill to assure that 2022 does not conclude in the same way it did last season. So far, they have moved on from their #2 receiver, top two TEs, starting Left Guard, starting Right Tackle, and have acquired one notable skill position player.
At the beginning of free agency, the Wide Receiver market was vast. Allen Robinson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Jarvis Landry were available via free agency and Amari Cooper and (apparently) Davante Adams through trade. Currently, the Titans WR2 is Nick Westbrook-Ikhine with few WR2 caliber receivers remaining in free agency.
At this point, the Titans must use their first round pick on a receiver. There are some great options and some very good deep threats but it will not be enough to transform the team's entire position group.
A name to keep an eye on is Rams' Robert Woods. He tore his ACL in Week 11 of 2021 and after the team signed WR Allen Robinson this week, it is expected that Woods is available for trade
Running Backs D'Onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard stepped in and played very well last season in the absence of Derrick Henry. However, Foreman has already signed elsewhere, Hilliard remains a free agent, and Titans 2020 3rd round pick, Darrynton Evans, was released last week.
Update: 3/19/22 The Titans have come to terms with Dontrell Hilliard. Hilliard averaged 6.3 yards per carry on 56 attempts and had 19 receptions.
I do not think this position will end up being a big deal but the team had an opportunity to bring back Foreman who would have been a great 2nd back behind Henry.
After moving on from Saffold and not resigning David Quessenberry, the Titans now have holes on the line. The Titans current starting offensive line includes Taylor Lewan, Aaron Brewer, Ben Jones, Nate Davis, Dillon Radunz. Needless to say, this needs to be addressed. With multiple linemen off the board in free agency, the Titans will likely look for a trade or the draft, where it is risky to draft lineman with the intention of starting them Week 1.
Currently, this is not a recipe for success for Ryan Tannehill or the Titans offense in 2022. This is currently, though, and I think that will change. A lot more needs to be done for Tannehill to bounce back in 2022 and it needs to begin in free agency.