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From the NFL Owners Meetings: Titans GM Ran Carthon Discusses the Team's Moves in Free Agency, and More


ORLANDO – Prior to the start of free agency, Titans General Manager Ran Carthon and members of the team's personnel staff, and coaching staff, gathered to discuss the team's plan.

The franchise had plenty of cap room, and plenty of needs.

And, also, plenty of targets.

Carthon let controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk know the players the team was going after right out of the gate, and the different scenarios that could potentially play out.

Speaking at the NFL owners meetings here on Sunday, Carthon couldn't help but smile when discussing how things have unfolded so far. The Titans have added eight new free agents, re-signed five of their own players, and the team is now reportedly on the verge of landing another impact player via trade.

"I feel like it's gone well," Carthon said. "We came in with a structured plan to start, and I think from a target standpoint, we hit on those targets pretty good.

"We still have a lot of work to do, and we still have our eight draft picks. We know the draft is coming up, and that's going to take precedence now. But we still have cap room, and we feel like we're well-positioned to (make moves later). I feel good about what we've done, but we still have to find ways to improve and we're looking forward to that challenge."

Over the past two weeks, the Titans have signed receiver Calvin Ridley, running back Tony Pollard, center Lloyd Cushenberry, cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr., offensive lineman Saahdiq Charles, quarterback Mason Rudolph, and defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day.

The team has also re-signed kicker Nick Folk, receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, long snapper Morgan Cox, running back Julius Chestnut and linebacker Jack Gibbens.

It's also been widely reported that the team has agreed to a trade for Chiefs cornerback L'Jarius Sneed.

On Sunday, Carthon discussed the new additions, with the exception of Sneed, because the trade hasn't been finalized, and is pending a physical. If all goes well, it could become official in the coming days.

All of the new additions are a part of the team-building puzzle, which has changed the look of the team on both sides of the football.

"Tony, just being in tandem with Tyjae (Spears)," Carthon said of Pollard, formerly with the Cowboys, and the team's running back position. "Having two explosive guys that can take it the distance anywhere on the field. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and provide us with explosive plays (is exciting)."

Carthon said Cushenberry, formerly with the Broncos, was one of the top centers in the free agency class, "a young player who has grown in each year that he has been in the league. We feel like his skill-set and everything he provides, we feel like him with (o-line coach Bill) Callahan can help take his game to a whole new level."

Carthon said he felt like Awuzie, formerly with the Bengals, was one of the top cornerbacks available in free agency.

"He's physical," Carthon said of Awuzie. "He's a grown man, hyper-competitive, great leadership, has played a ton of ball, played in a lot of high-impact games. He's the guy that comes in and helps rebuild your culture."

Murray Jr., formerly with the Chargers, will play one of the team's inside linebacker spots, Carthon said, "and we feel like as talented as he is, there's still another level he can take his game. And if you know (linebackers coach) Frank Bush's MO, and the work he has done with linebackers of all skills sets, we feel like once Frank gets his hands on him, he can take his game to another level."

Charles, formerly of the Commanders, will compete for one of the open spots on the offensive line.

"He's played both guard spots, he's played tackle," Carthon said. "And that's the thing with coach Bill Callahan, these guys will learn and know multiple positions. He's in a unique situation where he'll be able to create his own way."

The addition of Rudolph will add competition behind starting quarterback Will Levis, Carthon said.

"He has experience," Carthon said of the former Steelers quarterback, "and he's played a ton of games, and has been a starter. He is going to come in the room and offer some unique experiences to both Will and Malik (Willis) to help those guys in their maturation. He's going to come in the room and push those guys as well."

Joseph-Day, formerly with the Chargers and 49ers, "provides versatility up front," Carthon said. "He gives us an experienced guy who has been a part of some winning cultures. And, he is a consummate pro, and has always been that. He's another guy to put down on that d-line to help us compete and get after the quarterback."   

One of the biggest splashes the Titans made in free agency came when they landed Ridley, a former first-round pick of the Falcons who jumpstarted his career last season with a 1,000-yard season with the Jaguars.

Carthon said he canceled a Pro Day trip scheduled for Georgia when the team entered the chase for Ridley. Carthon and head coach Brian Callahan and others talked to Ridley, and they convinced him to come to Tennessee rather than returning to Jacksonville.

The night before, Carthon had a conversation with Strunk about the play-making receiver.

"I called Amy and said: What do you think?," Carthon said. "And, she was all for it."

The Titans ended up getting a player who should help change the look of the offense, Carthon said.

"He's a guy that you can move around to a bunch of different spots," Carthon said of Ridley. "He's one of the better separators in the league, one of the better guys working releases and finishing at the top of routes. He gives another explosive element to the offense, and another weapon for our quarterbacks to throw to."  
Carthon acknowledged there were some departures that hurt, including saying goodbye to running back Derrick Henry.

"Derrick is someone that you respect immensely for what he has done for this organization," Carthon said of Henry, who signed with the Ravens. "We had a conversation at the end of the season, and it left in a really good place, I believe. And, I wish him nothing but the best, other than when (he) plays us."

Defensive lineman Denico Autry and linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair signed with the Texans in free agency, two players the team was interested in re-signing. 

Cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (Cardinals), cornerback Kristian Fulton (Chargers), defensive back K'Von Wallace (Seahawks) and center Aaron Brewer (Dolphins) have landed deals elsewhere as well.

"If I'm being honest, we weren't able to get Azeez re-done, weren't able to get Denico, and those were two guys of our own that you'd like to have back," Carthon said. "But they ultimately made a decision that was best for them and their families. And, it's like anything else, when one door closes, another opens and us being able to pivot and be fluid allowed us to make some other moves."

Carthon said he's remained in conversations with some of the team's own free agents still on the market, although he didn't name which ones.

He expects those conversations will continue.

"It's been cool that a couple of (our) guys have reached out, also, and said: Hey, I want to be back," Carthon said. "So, we'll see how that goes. It's a new regime, things are different than they were last year, so we're just trying to see about the right fit. We know who the people are, and our coaching staff has done a great job evaluating our roster. Again, we're not done, but we have to take a patient approach with some of these."    

With the NFL Draft on the horizon, Carthon is ready to turn his attention to the prospects.

The last few weeks have been quite a whirlwind, and it's been a productive stretch.

As Carthon has walked the hallways here at the owners meetings, he's received a few compliments. 

It turns out his phone has been buzzing a lot of late.
"People were big fans of Tony Pollard, people were big fans of Cush, Chido and all the other guys we've signed," Carthon said. "The biggest compliment you can get from all of this is when guys from other teams text you and say: 'You guys signed one of my favorite players.' And I have gotten (a lot) of those texts, just (on) the type of guys that we've signed and the impact they've made.

"I feel good about what we've done so far, and excited about getting those dudes in the building."

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