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2021 Tennessee Titans Offseason: How to Address the Need at WR2

  • Free Agency
  • Tennesse Titans
  • Wide Receivers
By Yossi Khebzou February 24, 2021 0 Comment
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Who will be the Tennessee Titans’ wide receiver No. 2 in 2021?

During the 2020 season, the Titans’ receiving corps posted elite numbers for the first time in what feels like forever.

The duo of AJ Brown and Corey Davis was among the most prolific in the NFL. Combining for 2,059 yards and 16 TDs, they significantly aided the offensive explosion in Nashville.

However, Davis is set to hit free agency, leaving GM and executive vice president Jon Robinson with a tough decision. Should he re-sign Davis or let him go? Fortunately for the Titans, the 2021 pool of wide receivers is loaded in both free agency and in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Accordingly, the Titans will enjoy plenty of options. Who provides the best alternative? Who gives them the best value?

Here are the top free agents at wide receiver for 2021, listed in alphabetical order:

Titans Wide Receiver Targets in 2021 Free Agency

Allen Robinson

TGT REC YDS Y/R Y/T TD
2014 81 48 548 11.4 6.8 2
2015 151 80 1400 17.5 9.3 14
2016 151 73 883 12.1 5.8 6
2017* 1 1 17 17.0 17.0 0
2018 94 55 754 13.7 8.0 4
2019 154 98 1147 11.7 7.4 7
2020 151 102 1250 12.3 8.3 6

*Suffered a torn ACL in Week 1.

Allen Robinson is, undoubtedly, the most accomplished wide receiver of the 2021 free-agent class. Robinson has been one of the most productive and consistent receivers in the NFL since the Jaguars drafted him in 2014.

Amazingly, despite playing seven seasons in the league, Robinson is only 27 years old, right in his prime. in fact, he’s coming off a two-year monster stretch. Since 2019, he leads the NFL in contested catches and holds third place in receiving yards.

Robinson would fit right in with the Titans. His physical style of play matches Mike Vrabel’s preference. Moreover, he would provide the Music City with an unstoppable one-two punch alongside Brown. Defending those two would represent a nightmare scenario for any defensive coordinator.

Unfortunately, Robinson wearing two-toned blue may stay in the dream realm. His projected price tag is too high. Since the Titans are in a tight salary cap situation, it would be difficult to pay up for Robinson. They likely would need to restructure contracts, cut players, and refrain from filling other needs. 

Verdict: Robinson represents a fun option with upside, but there’s little chance the Titans can get it done.

Chris Godwin

TGT REC YDS Y/R Y/T TD
2017 55 34 525 15.4 9.5 1
2018 95 59 842 14.3 8.9 7
2019 121 86 1333 15.5 11.0 9
2020 84 65 840 12.9 10.0 7

A fringe elite 24-year-old wide receiver hitting open free agency doesn’t happen often, which is why it might not happen at all.

Firstly, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians expressed his wishesto keep Godwin in Tampa Bay for 2021 and beyond. There’s a good reason behind that statement. After a breakout sophomore season, Godwin hasn’t looked back. Since then, the Penn State alum has been one of the most efficient wide receivers in the NFL.

Godwin ranked 13th in yards-per-target both in 2019 and 2020. Additionally, his season-long stats look impressive, considering Godwin shared a room in 2020 with Mike Evans and Antonio Brown while also battling injuries.

Because of this, I doubt Godwin hits the market. If he does, the Titans should be all over him though, even if it means sacrificing other potential signings. Not often does a team have the opportunity to feature a young wide receiver duo like AJ Brown and Godwin. Likewise, being set at a premium position for the foreseeable future should be a priority.

Verdict: If he hits the market, the Titans should be all over Godwin.

Corey Davis

TGT REC YDS Y/R Y/T TD
2017 65 34 375 11.0 5.8 0
2018 112 65 891 13.7 8.0 4
2019 69 43 601 14.0 8.7 2
2020 92 65 984 15.1 10.7 5

It’s safe to say when the Titans selected Corey Davis with the fifth overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, they expected more than they’ve received. Nonetheless, Davis presented a solid target throughout his career to date. In 2020, though, he finally established himself as a high-end No. 2 receiver.

Davis’ receiving production, combined with his underrated run-blocking skills and physicality, could make him a coveted option in the open market. If the Titans can get him at $9.6M-$10.5M per-year — like Spotrac and Over The Cap project – re-signing him seems like a no-brainer.

Above all, Davis is a proven commodity on a high-flying offense. He already knows the system and has chemistry with his teammates.

That said, it only takes a slightly higher offer from another team to put Davis outside the team’s reach.

Due to the Titans’ salary cap situation, overpaying Davis would mean sacrificing valuable assets. For instance, they likely would need to refrain from re-signing other impending free agents such as Jonnu Smithor paying a much-needed edge defender. 

Verdict: Re-sign him — but only if the price is right.

Curtis Samuel

TGT REC YDS Y/R Y/T TD
2017 26 15 115 7.7 4.4 0
2018 65 39 494 12.7 7.6 5
2019 105 54 627 11.6 6.0 6
2020 97 77 851 11.1 8.8 3

There’s plenty to like about Curtis Samuel.

The former second-round pick has improved every year and is a natural playmaker. In addition to his receiving abilities, Samuel can carry the ball. Notably, his 330 rushing yards over the past two years led all wide receivers.

The Ohio State product established himself as one of the most versatile players in the NFL with the Panthers. As a matter of fact, his snap-split is a testament to his ability. In 2019, he lined up outside 67.9% of his snaps versus 32.1% in the slot. Meanwhile, in 2020, Samuel aligned in the slot 61.8% of the time, out wide 27.4%, and in the backfield 10.8%. 

The dude is a Swiss Army knife on the field, and that makes him an attractive option for any team.

Since Mike Vrabel took over as head coach of the Titans in 2018, he emphasized the importance of versatility. If the Titans sign Samuel, they would be getting that and more. He’s the ultimate chess piece on offense. However, they need to ask themselves if they’d be willing to sacrifice pure receiving abilities to add flexibility. Young, versatile wide receivers don’t grow on trees. Drafting one is no sure bet. 

Therefore, if the Titans can get Samuel for $7.4M – $12.5M, they should consider signing him.

Verdict: For the right price, Samuel could provide an intriguing option.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

TGT REC YDS Y/R Y/T TD
2017 79 58 917 15.8 11.6 7
2018 166 111 1426 12.8 8.6 7
2019 70 42 552 13.1 7.9 3
2020 128 97 831 8.6 6.5 9

JuJu Smith-Schuster made headlines in 2020, although not exactly for football reasons. His social media presence and TikTok dances made him one of the most polarizing players in the league.

Smith-Schuster has been talked about ever since he came into the NFL. He followed up an incredible rookie season with a Pro-Bowl sophomore year in which he was named the Pittsburgh Steelers’ MVP.> After his first two years in the league, he seemed destined to be the NFL’s next great receiver.

However, after the Steelers parted ways with star WR Antonio Brown, Smith-Schuster hasn’t looked the same. He was phenomenal as a second option behind Brown, but we haven’t seen him perform at that level in the last two years.

There’s no doubt Smith-Schuster can be an elite No. 2 WR. The thought of him lining up next to AJ Brown should get any Titans fan excited. His physicality and ability to make plays in space would fit the offense like a glove.

But, quoting Corvette Corvette=, let’s keep it a stack: He will likely command a contract Jon Robinson can’t afford to pay. And even if he did, he’ll probably be more expensive than Corey Davis, who can bring a similar high-end production for a much smaller price.

Verdict: Stay away. 

Kenny Golladay

TGT REC YDS Y/R Y/T TD
2017 48 28 477 17.0 9.9 3
2018 119 70 1063 15.2 8.9 5
2019 116 65 1190 10.3 10.3 11
2020 32 20 338 10.6 10.6 2

Kenny Golladay is one of the most prominent names slated to hit free agency in 2021.

After dominating the league with his physical playing-style during 2018 and 2019, an injury-riddled 2020 hampered his production. That didn’t stop him from showing his ability to overtake games by himself when healthy.
Over the four games in which he played over 50% of the snaps, Golladay averaged 84.5 yards-per-game. Babytron, as some call him, played a pivotal role in the Lions’ wins against the Falcons and the Jaguars, logging over 100 yards in both contests.

His style of play is quite intriguing. As a master of contested catches, he wins with his body more often than with his routes. Golladay finished with the worst average separation per route of any WR over the last two seasons. That sounds bad, right?

But check this out: The Titans’ offense is constituted by receivers of that mold. AJ Brown and Corey Davis ranked among the bottom of the league in separation, but their ability to produce with their strength made them an elite duo. If Davis departs, Golladay could be a natural replacement.

It all comes down to the price. Spotrac projects a $17M deal, which the Titans likely wouldn’t afford. On the other hand, Over The Cap values him at $9.4M, which would be a bargain. I personally suspect he will ultimately sign for a number closer to the Spotrac estimation. If Jon Robinson can sign him for $13M or $14M, he shouldn’t hesitate to do so.

Golladay and AJ Brown would arguably represent the best WR duo in the NFL.

Verdict: If the Titans can afford to sign him, they should do it without hesitation.

Marvin Jones

TGT REC YDS Y/R Y/T TD
2012 32 18 201 11.2 6.3 1
2013 80 51 712 14.0 8.9 10
2014
2015 103 65 816 12.6 7.9 4
2016 103 55 930 16.9 9.0 4
2017 107 61 1101 18.0 10.3 9
2018 62 35 508 14.5 8.2 5
2019 91 62 779 12.6 8.6 9
2020 115 76 978 12.9 8.5 9

After five years of being Matthew Stafford’s favorite pass-catcher, Marvin Joneslikely will explore the open market. Since he came into the league with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2012, Jones has been a model of consistency.

After producing next to prime AJ Green early in his career, the LA native elevated his game in the Motor City. Over his five seasons in Detroit, he eclipsed over 55 yards-per-game each year. Even better, his hands are among the safest in the NFL. He dropped more than four passes in a season just once in his career.

However, Jones is not getting any younger. He’ll be 31 years old before the 2021 season. His athleticism diminished in recent years as a result. In fact, he’s being used less and less as a true No. 2 WR.

According to Pro Football Focus, his snaps from the slot steadily increased each year. For that reason, he wouldn’t be a clear-cut replacement for Corey Davis in Tennessee. At his projected price, though, Jones still provides good value. If the Titans do sign him, they’d be wise to draft another receiver early. Even so, he could be a staunch addition in the meantime.

Verdict: Pursue him, but add another WR too.

TY Hilton

TGT REC YDS Y/R Y/T TD
2012 90 50 861 17.2 9.6 7
2013 139 82 1083 13.2 7.8 5
2014 131 82 1345 16.4 10.3 7
2015 134 69 1124 16.3 8.4 5
2016 155 91 1448 15.9 9.3 6
2017 109 57 966 16.9 8.9 4
2018 120 76 1270 16.7 10.6 6
2019 68 45 501 11.1 7.4 5
2020 93 56 762 13.6 8.2 5

After torching Tennessee’s defense twice a year for nine seasons, TY Hilton’s name should ring a bell to Titans fans.

It certainly seems like the veteran’s best years are behind him. Hilton has failed to reach 800 yards in each of his past two seasons. Moreover, he hasn’t received triple-digit targets since Andrew Luckretired. It’s important to note Hilton is best suited to be a deep threat. He hasn’t had much opportunity to do so with Jacoby Brissett and Philip Rivers at QB. Thus, a better year in a better system is not out of the question. Still, Hilton can’t be relied upon to provide a high-end No. 2 option anymore.

As is the case with other receivers in this list, I wouldn’t necessarily hate the idea of adding Hilton to the Titans. In fact, it could be a good idea for a team that badly needs a deep threat. However, if Jon Robinson were to sign Hilton, it should be on a reasonable deal. The Titans would still need to draft a wide receiver early. 

Verdict: Hilton wouldn’t hurt the team, but the Titans shouldn’t consider him a WR2.

Will Fuller

TGT REC YDS Y/R Y/T TD
2016 92 47 635 13.5 6.9 2
2017 50 28 423 15.1 8.5 7
2018 45 32 503 15.7 11.2 4
2019  71 49 670 13.7 9.4 3
2020 75 53 879 16.6 11.7 8

Just as TY Hilton, Will Fuller is a painfully familiar name to most Titans fans. In fact, I lost count of the times Fuller pulverized Tennessee’s defense. Because of his speed and ability with the ball in his hands, Fuller is a big-play threat every week. Nonetheless, his career has been characterized by constant injuries and inconsistency. He seemed to finally get it together in 2020, but a PED suspension cost him the last five games of the year.

The Titans’ offense badly needs more speed. Adding that element would make them more dynamic on all levels. By signing Fuller, the Titans would get one of the fastest receivers in the league (he ran a 4.33 40-yard-dash!). I, for one, would love to see him wear two-toned blue. Because of his suspension, Fuller’s contract could be cheaper than what Spotrac projects.

Forget the PEDs, though. Signing him comes with a risk regardless. Fuller’s injury history would force the Titans to draft a receiver in early rounds to have immediate insurance in case it’s needed.

Verdict: Like Bruce Arians says: “No risk it, no biscuit.” The Titans should make a push for Fuller.

Efficiency and Value

Free Agency is all about getting the best value at the lowest possible price.

One of the best ways to measure value is efficiency. How much is a player able to do with the resources available? For wide receivers, two basic stats stand above the rest when it comes to measuring efficiency: Yards-per-game (Y/G) and yards-per-target (Y/T). These measure how efficient a receiver is relative to his opportunities.

Therefore, I plotted 2021 free agent WRs’ Y/T and Y/G vs. their Projected Market Value* in the two graphs below. To sum it up, a WR’s best value comes when he’s farther to the left and higher up in the chart. 

Captura-de-Pantalla-2021-02-19-a-la-s-8-45-21

Captura-de-Pantalla-2021-02-19-a-la-s-8-45-27

Under that lens, Godwin provides the best value, but Hilton, Davis, and Samuel could help for a relatively low price. Regarding the Titans, I like the Davis and Samuel options. They’re both young and could produce while keeping the salary cap number reasonable.

*The PMV is obtained by the average of Over The Cap and Spotrac contract projections.

Conclusion: What would you want?

If the Titans wish to address their WR 2 in free agency, they’ll have plenty of options to do so. And even if many of the receivers listed re-sign with their teams before the free agency period, the alternatives will remain.

Of course, it’ll be interesting to see how Jon Robinson undertakes the challenge. Every possibility comes with its advantages and disadvantages. 

As a Titans fan, what would you want? Leave your opinion on the comment section or discuss on Twitter at @TitansBrawl, @YKhebzou, or @opiniondeldraft. 

NOTE: This is the first of two articles previewing the Titans options at WR2 for 2021. The first part will focus on Free Agency, while the second will focus on the draft.

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Titans fan. Mathematician and Mechathronical Engineer in progress. A host of Batalla de Titanes and Los Tiempos de Canton. Writing for Enlace Judío, El Informal, and The Brawl Network.

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