NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans enter the 2015 offseason with work to do. Determined to reverse the team's recent fortunes and reestablish the Titans as contenders in the AFC South, the front office will spend the coming months navigating free agency and the NFL Draft, while the coaching staff, largely intact after extensive changes a year ago, will continue building upon the system it worked to implement in 2014.
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The effort to find the right players to upgrade the roster already is well underway. The club got its first up-close look at some of the draft prospects at the Senior Bowl in January, and the NFL Scouting Combine in February is quickly approaching. College pro days and private visits with select NFL hopefuls will follow, and the process culminates with the draft from April 30-May 2.
In the meantime, many of the league's free agents will join new teams. Players with expiring contracts are eligible to sign elsewhere on March 10, when the new league year begins.
Veterans return to Saint Thomas Sports Park on April 20 for the start of the offseason workout program, and by early May, once the draft is complete and rookie free agents are signed, the vast majority of players who will make up the regular season roster will be in the fold.
Titans leadership is determined to meet the challenge. Team president and CEO Tommy Smith, general manager Ruston Webster and head coach Ken Whisenhunt have had a year to work together, and according to Whisenhunt, the promise of consistency is alluring to all, including the players.
"That's one of the biggest things when meeting with the players that they were most excited about," Whisenhunt said. "We're going to have systems in place that they're familiar with. They have a chance to get better and believe in what we're doing."
Whisenhunt has a track record of turning a franchise around. In his previous stint as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, he inherited a team that experienced losing seasons in 20 of the 22 seasons before he arrived in 2007, including a 5-11 campaign in 2006. By 2008, the Cardinals were NFC West Division Champions and went to their first Super Bowl.
The 2015 NFL Draft will be the fourth one overseen by Webster. The Titans currently possess seven total picks in the draft, including the second overall selection. The last time the franchise drafted that high was 1982, when tackle Dean Steinkuhler was selected by the Oilers with the second pick.
Webster's first three drafts yielded 21 total players, 18 of whom remain with the franchise. His three first-round picks as general manager include wide receiver Kendall Wright (2012), guard Chance Warmack (2013) and left tackle Taylor Lewan (2014).
Other offensive building blocks the Titans have acquired under Webster include tight end Delanie Walker, wide receiver Justin Hunter, running back Bishop Sankey and quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
On the other side of the ball, the Titans have several key ingredients under contract for 2015 and beyond. Defenders like cornerback Jason McCourty, inside linebacker Avery Williamson and defensive tackle Jurrell Casey figure prominently in the team's plans and are still in their prime years.
Despite the sizeable task ahead, the Titans are positive in their outlook and resolute in their approach.
"Everybody's looking at the win-loss record," Whisenhunt said, "and anything that you say contrary to that is going to be hard to believe. But I think one of the things that is positive is that we had a number of young players that played for us (in 2014) that got better. We've got an opportunity in the draft to get a high pick, to have an impact player make our team better … We get some guys back that didn't play for us this year injury-wise that can help, but I think the biggest thing is the second year in the system, with guys believing in what we're doing. We have to be better.
"This is a great town. You want to win here because the fans have been so good. I'm excited for that opportunity."
The Titans reached 400 all-time wins in the regular season with their Week 1 victory at Kansas City. The Titans' sellout streak at LP Field is now at 164 consecutive games, including every preseason, regular season and postseason game at the venue since it opened in 1999. The Titans defense had 18 different players with at least one sack in 2014, the most for the team since individual sacks became
an official statistic in 1982. Previously, the season with the most Titans/Oilers players with at least one sack was 17 in 1986. Running back Shonn Greene reached 4,000 career rushing yards (4,110). Safety Michael Griffin moved into a tie with Zeke Moore for ninth place in team history with 24 career interceptions. Safety Michael Griffin (811 career tackles) passed Marcus Robertson (700 career tackles), Steve Kiner (738), Ray Childress (784) and Blaine Bishop (788) to move into seventh place on the team's all-time tackles list. In passing Bishop, he became the top-tackling safety in team history. He also became the seventh player in franchise history to reach 800 tackles. Punter Brett Kern (447 punts with the Titans) moved past Cliff Parsley (431) for third place on the team's career punts list. Punter Brett Kern (40.8 net average in 2014) broke his own franchise record for the highest net punting average in a season. Punter Brett Kern tied a franchise record with a 79-yard punt against Indianapolis on Dec. 28. He matched Jim Norton's punt against Kansas City on Nov. 22, 1964. Left guard Andy Levitre recorded his sixth consecutive season with starts in all 16 games to begin his career. He started every contest for four years in Buffalo and has started all 32 games in two seasons with the Titans. Quarterback Jake Locker (4,829 career passing yards) passed Matt Hasselbeck for ninth place on the franchise's top 10 passing yards list. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger became the third quarterback in franchise history to start six or more games as a rookie, joining Dan Pastorini (eight in 1971) and Vince Young (13 in 2006). He became the first of the trio to complete a touchdown pass in each of his first five starts. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger set a single-game rookie record for the franchise with 345 passing yards at Philadelphia on Nov. 23. His 299 yards against Houston on Oct. 26—his first career start—rank third in team annals among rookies. Against Pittsburgh on Nov. 17, he passed for 263 yards, a record for an NFL rookie on Monday Night Football. At Baltimore on Nov. 9, quarterback Zach Mettenberger, left tackle Taylor Lewan and running back Bishop Sankey became the team's first rookie quarterback/left tackle/running back trio to start in the same game for the franchise since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Tackle Michael Roos (148 career games) moved into 11th place in franchise history in games played and fifth place among franchise offensive linemen. Tight end Delanie Walker reached 200 receptions for his career (246). Tight end Delanie Walker (890 receiving yards in 2014) set a
franchise record among tight ends for most receiving yards in a season. Tight end Delanie Walker's63 receptions*tied him withFrank Wycheck(1997) for the fourth-highest total in a season among Titans/Oilers tight ends. Right guardChance Warmackbecame the fourth rookie in the "Titans era" (1999–present) to start all 32 games for the team in his first two NFL seasons, joiningJevon Kearse(1999–00),Tank Williams(2002–03) andMichael Roos(2005–06). Wide receiverNate Washington(307 receptions with the Titans) moved pastChris Johnson(272) andDrew Bennett(273) for ninth place on the franchise's all-time receptions list Wide receiverNate Washington(4,591 receiving yards with the Titans) passedDrew Bennett(4,033) for eighth place on the team's all-time receiving yards list. Wide receiverNate Washington(6,296 career receiving yards) became the fifth undrafted player in the seven-round draft era (1994–present) to reach 6,000 career receiving yards, joiningRod Smith,Antonio Gates,Wes WelkerandWayne Chrebet. Rookie linebackerAvery Williamsonrecorded 107 tackles, more than every rookie in the "Titans era" (since 1999). He broke the previous mark byAlterraun Verner, who had 103 tackles as a rookie in 2010. LinebackerWesley Woodyardled the Titans in 2014 with a career-high 134 total tackles. Wide receiverKendall Wrightreached 215 career catches, a total that ranks first in franchise history for a player's first three seasons with the team. The next closest total isWebster Slaughter's184 catches from 1992 through 1994. Wide receiverKendall Wright(215 career receptions) became the 15th player in franchise history to reach 200 career receptions. He became the fastest Titans/Oilers player to reach the mark, accomplishing the feat in his 41st career game, beating the 42 games it tookCharlie Hennigan*.
KEY 2015 OFFSEASON DATES
*February 16 *
First day for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.
*February 17-23 *
NFL Scouting Combine, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana.
March 2 **
Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, deadline for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.
*March 7-10 *
Clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2014 contracts at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 10. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 10.
*March 10 *
The 2015 league year and free agency period begin at 4:00 p.m., New York time.
*March 22-25 *
Annual Meeting, Phoenix, Arizona.
*April 20 *
Clubs with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs.
*April 24 *
Deadline for Restricted Free Agents to sign offer sheets.
*April 29 *
Deadline for prior club to exercise Right of First Refusal to Restricted Free Agents.
*April 30-May 2 *
2015 NFL Draft, Chicago, Illinois
Rookie development program begins.
NFL Spring League Meeting, San Francisco
Organized team activities & mandatory minicamp
Rookie Symposium, Aurora, Ohio
Training camps begin.
Hall of Fame Game, Canton, Ohio
Preseason schedule begins.
NFL Kickoff Weekend 2015
All 16 of the Titans' opponents in 2015 have been determined. As always, they have home and road games against each of their AFC South rivals (Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars).
Based upon the NFL's schedule rotation, the Titans also will face every team from the AFC East, hosting the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins and traveling to the New England Patriots and New York Jets.
Likewise, the Titans will square off against the NFC South. They will have dates at LP Field against the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers and road games versus the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Additionally, every team has two intraconference games determined by order of finish within its division. Because the Titans finished fourth in the AFC South, they will host the AFC West's fourth-place finisher, the Oakland Raiders, and they will travel to meet the Cleveland Browns, who were last in the AFC North.
Preseason opponents as well as dates and times of regular season games are typically announced by the NFL in April. For ticket information, fans can visit TitansOnline.com/tickets, call (615) 565-4200, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. * *
2015 TITANS HOME OPPONENTS
Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Oakland Raiders *
2015 TITANS ROAD OPPONENTS
Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots, New York Jets, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns *
* Opponent based on final division standings in 2014.