Where should the Titans Look to Fill the Backup Quarterback and Running Back Spots?
After their run to the AFC Championship, the Titans lost QB Marcus Mariota to free agency and they released backup running back Dion Lewis. Mariota was the starter at the beginning of last season but the job was given to Ryan Tannehill after week 6. Dion Lewis was released after he recorded just 1 touchdown in 16 games last season. These moves leave both the backup Quarterback and Running Back spots open.
The Quarterback position is the most important position in football and the Titans made it clear that Ryan Tannehill was their Quarterback going forward. The Titans moved on from Marcus Mariota after 5 seasons and they are now looking for a backup Quarterback. Besides Tannehill and Mariota last year, their most recent backups include Blaine Gabbert and Matt Cassel. Many teams expect their backup to come in when needed and maintain a .500 record but this is no easy task. Last season, the Titans made backup Quarterback a priority after they traded a draft pick for Ryan Tannehill. They should do the same this offseason.
Tannehill, 31, is coming off by far the best season of his career and he recently signed a 4 year, $118m extension with the Titans. Unfortunately, Tannehill has a history of injuries similar to Mariota; he did not finish either of his last two seasons in Miami due to knee and shoulder injuries. This makes a backup Quarterback very important, but who is available?
Some of the biggest names include Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, Joe Flacco, and Blake Bortles. There are many more like Drew Stanton, Trevor Siemian, Blaine Gabbert, Geno Smith, and Brandon Allen.
I think Newton and Winston can both be starters somewhere, making it unlikely that the Titans will sign them. I do not think either Quarterback would take the money Tennessee has to offer making them even more unlikely to end up on the Titans.
There have been reports that the Titans have thankfully shown no interest in Joe Flacco. Flacco is 35 and seems to be declining rapidly since leaving the Ravens in 2018. Bortles, 27, is a much more intriguing option. Bortles signed with the Rams last offseason after playing his first 5 seasons in Jacksonville. Bortles could be an interesting option because he could be signed to a cheap deal and he has experience in the AFC South.
Of the remaining free agents, I think the Titans could target Stanton, Smith, or Allen. Gabbert is probably unlikely due to his Week 17 mishap the last time he played for the Titans. Stanton and Allen have shown the ability to throw the deep ball on many occasions but have not had any huge stats to show for it. Allen has played just one year in the league but started 3 games for the Broncos last season and played well. Smith has not played a full season since his second season in the league (2014) but he has filled in well when he needed to.
Of the options, I think Bortles and Stanton are the best options. Bortles because of his experience and his ability to play his role and Stanton because he can provide a spark for a small price.
Derrick Henry was extremely dominant in 2019 but the Titans still must have a backup. At this point in free agency, there are many big name running backs still available like Devonta Freeman, Lamar Miller, LeSean McCoy, Carlos Hyde, and Frank Gore.
It is unclear what the Titans plans are at Running Back though I think they will fill the backup spot through the draft. While Freeman or McCoy could be good options, I think the Titans are better off drafting a running back late. Some of the top backs in the draft like D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor, and J.K. Dobbins, could come off the board in the first round and hopefully, the Titans do not pick a running back in the first round. Someone like Eno Benjamin from Arizona State or Ke’Shawn Vaughn from Vanderbilt could be an interesting later round choice and a major change of pace from Derrick Henry.
The Titans offseason appears to be off to a shaky start. The team has released many players and has signed just 2 players. Pass rush is still a huge position of need and if it is not filled, there will be problems. Backup Quarterback and backup Running Back should be at the front of GM Jon Robinson’s mind right now and hopefully, the Titans will begin making moves in the coming days.