Adoree Jackson, Malcolm Butler, Kenny Vaccaro and Adam Humphries were among some of the inflated salaries the Tennessee Titans had to shed a year ago to clear room to build their 2021 roster.
This year, Titans General Manager Jon Robinson has some more tough decisions to make in terms of Tennessee’s salary cap situation.
The Titans are currently $6.3 million over the NFL’s $208.2 million salary cap for 2022 according to Over the Cap, and Robinson presumably has new contracts for Harold Landry and Ben Jones at the top of his offseason to-do list.
Tennessee has several pricey contracts that could look awfully appealing as it works toward getting under the cap including:
– Taylor Lewan, OT – Cap savings: $12.9 million ($1.79 million in dead money)
– Zach Cunningham, LB – Cap savings: $10.5 million ($0 in dead money)
– Rodger Saffold, G – Cap savings: $10.5 million ($2.37 million in dead money)
– Jackrabbit Jenkins, CB – Cap savings: $7 million ($3.2 million in dead money)
– Kendall Lamm, OT – Cap savings: $3.3 million ($850,000 in dead money)
– Brett Kern, P – Cap savings: $3.2 million ($550,000 in dead money)
– Nate Davis, G – Cap savings: $2.68 million ($233,670 in dead money)
– Julio Jones, WR – Post-June 1 cap savings: $9.5 million ($4.8 million in dead money); Pre-June 1 cap savings: $1 million
Lewan is probably the one player on this list that Robinson and head coach Mike Vrabel have to think long and hard about. Saving nearly $13 million isn’t something to just gloss over. While the 30-year-old tackle struggled at times this season, which Lewan chalked up to still recovering from a torn ACL, it’s hard to argue the Titans are better without him than with him. If the Titans do part ways with Lewan, he wouldn’t be unemployed long, and the team would have a huge hole to fill at left tackle that nobody currently on the roster can fill. Lewan likely isn’t going anywhere.
Cunningham’s situation is interesting because rarely does a team save north of $10 million by releasing a player and face zero dead cap money. However, Cunningham is only 27, one of the NFL’s top tacklers, and he outplayed both Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans in his limited four-game sample size with the Titans. Maybe Robinson is okay with rolling into 2022 with David Long and Monty Rice as his inside linebackers. I don’t think Cunningham gets cut, but I’m not ruling it out either.
Saffold’s situation could be interesting. He and Lewan, when healthy, are one of the top run-blocking duos in the NFL. But there comes a point when the Titans have to save money and go younger at some positions and offensive line might be one. Aaron Brewer proved himself a capable replacement, and Dillon Radunz could start there if needed. Saving $10.5 million here might be too much to pass up.
Lamm is almost certainly gone. Although he played in 12 games, he only saw 87 offensive snaps. That’s not worth the $3.3 million the Titans will save by cutting him, especially if Dillon Radunz is ready for a more prominent role next year.
Yes, Kern is a three-time Pro Bowl punter and he’s been with the Titans for 13 years now. However, he’s not the field-position weapon he used to be. Gaining an extra $3.2 million by cutting a punter seems like a no-brainer for Robinson, especially since the Titans could easily find another after the draft or in free agency.
I think the chances of the Titans cutting Davis is slim-to-none; however, it may make more sense once you dig below the surface. After looking like an All-Pro in 2020, Davis didn’t look like the same player this year. He allowed five sacks and seemed to struggle with basic pass-blocking schemes at times. He’s 26, so it might be hard to part with a young player who has Pro Bowl potential, but if the Titans felt comfortable moving forward with Brewer and Radunz as their guards in 2022, they could cut both Saffold and Davis and save nearly $13.2 million in the process.
While it was certainly convenient for the Titans to have Jenkins in the defensive backfield this year, if Caleb Farley comes back fully healthy next season, it could be argued that Tennessee doesn’t need the luxury of keeping Jenkins around. Fulton is the Titans’ unquestioned No. 1 corner, and the team wants Farley to be the No. 2. Elijah Molden has the slot corner job locked down and saving $7 million by parting ways with Jenkins might be a price the Titans are willing to pay.
Jones is another intriguing situation. While $14.3 million is a lot of money to spend on a receiver that was injured half of the season, the Titans did give up a second-round pick this year to bring him in. And Ryan Tannehill restructured his deal, which is somewhat handicapping Tennessee this year because of the $38 million he’s owed. Jones showed glimpses of his old self in the final few games of the season, but he still has those injury concerns and he’s almost 33. It’s clear that 2022 is make-or-break time for Tannehill, and possibly Tennessee’s Super Bowl window, and he needs a receiver aside from A.J. Brown who is dependable. Saving $9.5 million might be looking pretty good in Robinson’s eyes.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_