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2009 Tennessee Titans offseason positional analysis: OT

Now that most NFL teams have generally more or less figured out free agency, you essentially never see quality players at key positions hit the free agent market, unless they’re facing a potentially serious flaw (see Brees, Drew, torn labrum).  Two positions, in particular, where it’s difficult to find a good starter, and virtually impossible to find an elite one, in the free agent market are the offensive tackles.  If you want an elite guy, you generally have to be good/lucky enough to find them in the draft, have a coach good enough to develop them once you draft them, and then be smart enough to keep them.

Take, for instance, Michael Roos.  The Titans drafted him in the second round of the 2005 draft out of Eastern Washington, where his OL coach was former Titan Tom Ackerman.  After starting his first NFL game at LT for the suspended Brad Hopkins, he started the next 15 at right tackle before moving to the left side in 2006 after Hopkins’ “retirement.”  He’s drawn accolades since then, finally exploding on the national scene this year and making a passel of All-Pro teams (I’m sure the 2009 Titans Media Guide will have a complete list).  Oh, and by the by, the Titans signed him to a 6 year, $43 million contract on the eve of the 2008 NFL draft, so pencil him in as the Titans’ starting LT through 2013.

That “signed through 2013” thing is something he has in common with David Stewart, who was taken a whole two rounds later.  Stewart didn’t become a starter nearly as immediately as Roos, waiting until G Zach Piller’s injury early in the 2006 season for Jacob Bell to move vacate the RT spot for the LG spot where he was much more suited.  Big Country is more of a drive-blocking mauler than the smoothly efficient Roos, which is less endearing to my heart, and has at times shown some vulnerability to an edge rusher with a good outside move, but that hasn’t prevented him from earning some All-Pro recognition of his own.

Behind the two starters, though, primary backup Daniel Loper is an unrestricted free agent after playing on a restricted tender in 2008.  Loper, clearly the least successful member of the Titans’ 05 OT draft trio, has nonetheless been a valuable reserve and has been active for every game the past two seasons.  I suspect the Titans would prefer to have him back, but he’s still a fairly young guy and Titans OL coach Mike Munchak is respected enough around the league that some team may offer him more than the Titans are willing to pay.

Michael Otto rounds out the offensive tackles on the Titans’ roster last year.  The former Purdue Boilermaker was a 7th round pick of the Titans in 2007 and spent that year on the practice squad before making the active roster in 2008.  He made his NFL actual game debut in the “Who Cares” Fest that was Week 17 in Indianapolis.  If Loper leaves as I suspect he will, Otto will be the Titans’ primary OT and also possibly OG backup.  With two good and young tackles, that should just mean more time playing special teams.

If Loper does indeed leave as a free agent, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Titans use a late round draft pick on another college OT for Munchak to mold as a replacement.  Otherwise, there should be no turnover for the Titans at this position, nor should there be.