May 25, 2024

The Tennessee Titans sit at 4-8 ahead of a Monday Night Football matchup with the 9-3 Miami Dolphins who sport the best record in the AFC and one of the NFL’s most deadly offensive attacks. Odds are not great that the 2023 Titans make a playoff run and that means it is time to look ahead to 2024.

The rest of the season should be about who can help this team in 2024. We should look at the remainder of the schedule as auditions for next year’s team. With that in mind, who do we know right now will be back or should be back with the Titans? Let’s take a look at who must return on the defensive side of the ball.

Defensive Line – Jeffery Simmons, Denico Autry
Jeffery Simmons is a no-brainer. He may not be Aaron Donald, but Simmons is one of the best in the league and continues to show out even while the defense crumbles around him. Sadly, Simmons was injured in Week 13 and if the Titans are smart, he won’t see the field again this year.

Denico Autry is interesting. Autry is going to be 34 years old next year and he may want to play for a team that is more of a certain playoff contender in his final years. If he wants to return for a reasonable rate though, the Titans would be lucky to bring him back.

As for Teair Tart, Tart is a great run-stuffer as a nose tackle and a great story, rising from an undrafted free agent to a starter, but Tart is still a nose tackle. He is a two-down player and as he enters free agency, I am not sure using the money to bring him back is the right allocation of resources considering the lack of positional value.

EDGE – Harold Landry, Arden Key
Harold Landry has really started to come on over the past month as he continues to comeback from a torn ACL prior to 2022. It is common knowledge that it takes a full year of playing after the injury before a player really returns to full steam and that is looking true for Landry.

Key is probably best as a rotational third rusher rather than an every-down starter, but at his price, about $7 million a year, he is a value that should be brought back. Maybe the Titans can put him in a more appropriate role in 2024.

Linebackers – Jack Gibbens
Jack Gibbens has had some struggles in his second year as he tries to assume a starting role after going undrafted in 2022. Gibbens has also had some fantastic games for the Titans. He is smart in run defense and a sure tackler. He may not have elite athleticism, but he makes up for it with instincts. He may not be a top-tier linebacker, but he should be brought back.

Azeez Al-Shaair seems to be a fan favorite, but his play doesn’t justify the reputation. Al-Shaair has put up big numbers(114 tackles), but he has also missed 12.4% of his tackle attempts which is the seventh-highest in the NFL among linebackers with at least 600 snaps. Al-Shaair is an average starting linebacker and I’m not going to pound on the table for him to return or not.

Cornerbacks – Roger McCreary
Roger McCreary has been a standout in year two. He had his struggles when he was forced to play outside on the boundary, but when able to man the slot on the inside, McCreary has been sensational. He is a lock not only to be back, but to be a starter at that slot position in 2024. They need to be better around him.

Kristian Fulton is a free agent and has been in the doghouse for years it seems. Sean Murphy-Bunting has had good moments, but like Al-Shaair, I feel he is an average starting corner and could be replaced if the team thought it important to. I think we have seen that no one else on the depth chart, Tre Avery included, is all that important going forward.

Safety – Amani Hooker, Elijah Molden
Amani Hooker is a playmaker and has shown he can do his job and do it well. After the trade of Kevin Byard, that spot next to Hooker has been rotational. Third-year player Elijah Molden got a shot along with Terrell Edmunds, who came over in the Byard trade and K’Von Wallace, who was claimed off waivers mid-season.

Wallace seems to be getting the nod at the moment, but if we are honest, the spot next to Hooker could use an upgrade. Maybe Wallace comes back as a third safety, but again, I won’t pound the table for it. Molden will be on the last year of his rookie contract so keeping him makes sense, but it would only be in a dime safety role where he can play linebacker on passing downs.

Other Position Groups
Skill Positions
Offensive Line
Titans Related Stories
WEEK 14 INJURY REPORT: The Tennessee Titans will take on the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football in Week 14 and as of Thursday’s practice they have a long list of injuries to deal as they work to prepare for the game. CLICK HERE
TITANS SIGN NEW PUNTER: The Tennessee Titans saw a rash of injuries against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 13 that included losing punter Ryan Stonehouse for the season. On Wednesday, the Titans made a move to add Stonehouse’s replacement along with other additions. CLICK HERE
TITANS WAIVE RICE: The Tennessee Titans have parted ways with third-year linebacker Monty Rice on Tuesday in a somewhat surprising move at this stage of the season. CLICK HERE

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