What Harold Landry's multi-year contract means for Tennessee Titans' offseason strategy
Last offseason, the Tennessee Titans gave their defense a much-needed facelift.
First came the roster cuts. Then the signings of Bud Dupree, Denico Autry and Jackrabbit Jenkins in free agency. Five of last year’s eight draft picks were defenders. By the start of the 2021 season, more than half of their defensive starters were new – and the overhaul eventually paid dividends. Defense, the Titans' Achilles heel in 2020, was the team's strongest unit by midseason onward.
By locking up Harold Landry on a multi-year deal Tuesday – a five-year contract worth $87.5 million that includes $52.5 million guaranteed, according to a source – the Titans may have just freed themselves to focus on making a similar leap on offense in 2022.
MORE ON LANDRY:Tennessee Titans agree to terms with outside linebacker Harold Landry on five-year deal
MOCK DRAFT:Our first 2022 NFL Mock Draft is here. Yes, Tennessee Titans' Ryan Tannehill will be happy
RYAN TANNEHILL:Why the Tennessee Titans believe Ryan Tannehill is their answer to improved quarterback play
No longer does Tennessee have to prepare for potential contingency plans for maintaining a dominant pass rush in a post-Landry world. With him remaining in the fold, the Titans defense is equipped to be a strength again next season.
The front four should be even better with a healthy Dupree, who battled setbacks with his surgically repaired ACL and an abdominal injury last season. David Long Jr. and Zach Cunningham are in line to be the starting inside linebackers of the future. All-Pro Kevin Byard and Amani Hooker man the safety spot. The unit’s concern (if you can even call it that) is at cornerback, but that could be moot point if 2021 first-round pick Caleb Farley lives up to expectations after an injury-shortened rookie season.
Landry’s contract essentially green lights the Titans to prioritize offensive improvements in free agency, which begins Monday with the opening of the legal tampering window, and the draft.
Tennessee’s offense, one of the league’s most balanced and efficient units from 2019-20, disappointed last season despite having a talented skill group and an experienced offensive line. The offense ranked 15th in points and 17th in yards under new playcaller Todd Downing, marking a steep regression (fourth in points and second in yards in 2020). The passing attack struggled (ranked 24th), especially in the four games A.J. Brown didn’t play. Julio Jones failed to meet expectations. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw 14 interceptions (his most since 2013) and was sacked 47 times, second most in the league.
Tennessee needs reinforcements just about everywhere on offense – receiver, tight end and on the offensive line – even if the record-setting number of injuries played a role in the 2021 struggles.
While the cap ramifications of Landry’s new deal remain unclear, the Titans have work to do to get in salary-cap compliance by the beginning of the new NFL league year March 16. They’re $7.8 million over the 2022 salary cap excluding his contract. Some combination of cap casualties, contract restructures and/or pay cuts appear to be imminent.
When Tennessee gets that sorted, though, it can be aggressive fixing its offense, knowing its top pass rusher – and defense – is in place for a deep playoff run next season.
Ben Arthur covers the Tennessee Titans for The USA TODAY Network. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @benyarthur.