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Eleven Titans’ starters are in contract years

Eleven Titans who have been starters this year are in the final year of their contracts and are scheduled to be free agents in 2012.  How well these players perform for the remainder of the season will undoubtedly have a strong bearing on their future employment with the team.

Two positions, safety and defensive end, are particularly affected.  Several other positions are also of interest.

Which position groups may be a priority for the Titans in the next offseason?  Which players need to play well for the rest of the year to be considered for retention?  We’ll look at these position groups, and the eleven players, after the jump.

Scheduled for free agency in 2012:
S Jordan Babineaux
S Michael Griffin
S Chris Hope
DE Dave Ball
DE William Hayes
DE Jason Jones
CB Cortland Finnegan
FB Ahmard Hall
LB Barrett Ruud
G Jake Scott
TE Craig Stevens

S – All three safeties who have started this year are scheduled to be free agents.  Hope ought to be a goner, no matter how well he may play if he gets back on the field.  Babineaux may be able to earn a new contract with some solid play, but probably only as depth.  If Griffin has a moderately good season, the Titans ought to retain his services.  I’m still upset that the Titans failed to be proactive by upgrading at safety during the summer.  Instead, they’ll be a year tardy and have two spots to fill instead of one.  Dawan Landry, Danieal Manning or Quintin Mikell would have been nice additions.

DE – Over the last several seasons, Jones has been the best of the three potential free agents, though that’s been as a DT.  It would be nice if JJ could remain healthy for an entire season.  Hayes seems to be a better fit for the Titans’ new scheme than Ball.  I can see Ball returning on another one-year contract and competing for a job in training camp next summer.  However, if the Titans decide to let a couple of these guys walk, it would be an opportunity to replace them with some bigger bodies, the type of DE Jerry Gray wants.

CB – Finnegan is obviously a player the Titans should try to re-sign, preferably before March.  He’d be at the top of my list.

FB – Actually, Hall hasn’t started this year, but I’m including him for the purposes of this exercise.  I’m not sure that Hall will be back after he serves his suspension.  The Titans now have a draft pick invested in Quinn Johnson, who is under contract through the 2012 season at a reasonable price, $1.045M over two years.

MLB – Ruud’s contract is only for one season, so he may be elsewhere next year.  Fourth-round draft pick Colin McCarthy showed some talent in training camp and the preseason and may be ready to start next year.  Also, Will Witherspoon is under contract through 2012, and he could move inside from his weakside spot, leaving Gerald McRath at that position.  The Titans will have some options, either trying to re-sign Ruud or going with McCarthy or Spoon, so MLB doesn’t look like it will be a position of primary importance in the offseason.

G – Regular readers of this blog know my feelings about the interior line.  I’ve wanted to see some upgrades for two years now, and though the Titans erred in not replacing Leroy Harris this summer, they can at least replace Scott at RG in the coming offseason.  Harris only signed a two-year deal, so 2012 may be his last season as a Tennessee Titan.  Maybe by 2013 we’ll have two new guards, a pair of good ones.

TE – As is the case with Finnegan, re-signing Stevens seems like another no-brainer.  Jared Cook is signed through 2012 and Daniel Graham through the 2013 season, so the Titans should be good at the position for a few more years.

Non-starters who are scheduled for free agency obviously aren’t of that much concern, but if you’re interested in who they are, here’s the list: Snapper Ken Amato, LB Patrick Bailey, WR Lavelle Hawkins, T Mike Otto, LB Tim Shaw, and S Anthony Smith.

Which of these guys would you like to see in two-tone blue for the next several years?  Which ones are replaceable?  Who would you say good riddance to?