I believe I’ve mentioned it briefly on here, but I’m also writing for the stats-oriented website Football Outsiders. Among other things, I’m writing the chapters in their 2010 book on the Titans and Jaguars, and I’m sure I’ll have more to say about that further on in the writing process. I’m also responsible for writing occasional capsules about where the team stands as part of FO’s Four Downs series. The first edition of that for the AFC South is available for your reading pleasure. The main offseason question bit of that, which was originally published on ESPN Insider, deals with filling in the defensive holes, particularly at DE, OLB, and CB. As to who the Titans could sign, I mention one name that I don’t think I’ve seen anybody else mention that I think potentially makes a great deal of sense, and that’s Pisa Tinoisamoa.
If you look at the list of the OLB free agent class, you notice that pretty much everybody who’s decent is a restricted free agent and thus will require draft pick compensation to sign. The top unrestricted guy is Karlos Dansby, but his price is likely to be much too high for the Titans and I’m not even sure he’d be a good fit schematically. Beyond that, though, Tinoisamoa’s was a name that stood out for me. He spent 2009 with the Bears after the Rams cut him in May of that year after acquiring James Laurinaitis and Will Witherspoon, primarily because of an affinity for former Rams DC Lovie Smith. The Bears and Lovie Smith, being the Bears and Lovie Smith, and already having Lance Briggs at weakside linebacker and Brian Urlacher in the middle, played him over Hunter Hillenmeyer at strongside linebacker. But, at 6’1″, 230#, Tinoisamoa is much more of a weakside linebacker who plays in space than someone who plays over the tight end and fights through blocks.
In my view, that makes him a good fit for what the Titans need. Gerald McRath spent his time in 2009 playing for David Thornton in what passes for the strongside position in the Titans defense, so he’s used to that position. If the Titans feel McRath is ready for a starting spot, Thornton is a potential cap casualty with a base salary $4 million plus what my notes say is a $750,000 roster bonus (due when, I’m not sure) and that balky shoulder. After Bulluck went down, Colin Allred played the other OLB position, and none too well in my estimation. In my mind, that other OLB position is wide open.
The red flag on Tinoisamoa is that he suffered a knee injury in the Bears’ Week 1 game and only played in one other contest before having season-ending surgery. That marked the third time in the past four seasons he’d missed at least 5 games, as his 2006 and 2007 seasons were also truncated due to injury. That probably makes it fair to describe him as injury-prone, but he’ll still only be 29 at the start of the 2010 season, which makes him young enough he could still be ok. Plus, it’s been reported the Bears are interested in retaining him, though they haven’t officially signed him yet.
Signing Tinoisamoa would be a calculated risk; there’s certainly a chance he could spend much of the year in the training room and off the field. At 29, he’s also not a long-term solution. But, given the slim pickings available in the free agent class generally, and a likely unwillingness to overspend on the few good free agents that are available, and taking into account the short depth chart at outside linebacker, Pisa Tinoisamoa is a name the Titans should consider.